January 25, 2011 Stephanie Storm, Akron Beacon Journal

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KENT: Jim Andrassy learned firsthand what the Kent State wrestling program needed to compete with the top wrestling programs across the country.

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As a 158-pound wrestler on the Golden Flashes' 1991-94 teams, Andrassy posted a 106-25-1 mark, finishing his career just one victory shy of All-America status as a senior at the NCAA championships.

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Andrassy, in his eighth season as the Flashes' head coach, also learned that with a little more discipline, he probably could have reached his goal.

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With that in mind, he has not missed a step on the coaching ladder. First he was a student assistant while he completed work for his bachelor's degree in rhetoric and communications. Then he was a volunteer coach, a graduate assistant and a full-time assistant for six years before being named the program's sixth head coach in 2003.

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Andrassy uses his experience as an example to others to help them get the most out of their college careers.

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''The Kent State program was different when I was a student-athlete,'' Andrassy said. ''We didn't start the season as early as we do now, we certainly didn't practice as much as we do now and, believe it or not, weight lifting was optional.''

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Emphasizing lifting and practicing, Andrassy has crafted the Flashes' wrestling program into the 12th-ranked spot in the nation.

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Entering this season, Andrassy's squads posted an 85-47-1 record in dual meets while finishing second at the MAC Tournament in each of the past five years. Perhaps more importantly, Kent State's list of 100-win wrestlers has grown from four to nine in the past five years.

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''We used to be a team that would take one to three of our guys to nationals when I was coming up,'' said Andrassy, who was honored as the MAC Coach of
the Year in 2009. ''Now, we're consistently taking some five, six guys every year.''

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Sophomore 141-pounder Chase Skonieczny, a standout at Walsh Jesuit High, hopes to be among those in the next few years.

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''When I was making my college decision, I wanted one with the same focus we had at Walsh,'' Skonieczny said. ''I found that at Kent. Some guys go to bigger schools that maybe aren't so strict like us with our zero tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol. But I wanted a place that takes our sport this seriously.

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''Coach tells us about when he wrestled at Kent, they weren't very good as a team because although they had some really good wrestlers, they weren't very disciplined and never got the most out of themselves. I don't want to look back on my career like that.''

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By changing the culture of the program, Andrassy and his staff were able to assemble two of the nation's top recruiting classes in 2007 (top 10) and 2008 (top 20).

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''We've made our schedule a lot tougher,'' Andrassy said. ''Because of that, we've been able to recruit more talented wrestlers out of high school. Our schedules over the last few years have been some of the toughest in the country and that's helped us in the national rankings.''

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In the past five seasons, KSU has sent five or more qualifiers to the NCAA Championships and produced four All-Americans (Nic Bedelyon, Jermail Porter, Danny Mitcheff and Dustin Kilgore), along with two NCAA top-25 team finishes in the past two seasons.

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''Truthfully, we've lost a lot of talented kids we were recruiting because of how much we expect out of our guys,'' said Andrassy, whose Flashes have not dropped a MAC dual to a team other than Central Michigan since February 2005. ''But that's the way we do things around here and I believe that it's the right way.''

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The Flashes have won eight of their past duals, including a recent 17-15 victory over No. 21 Purdue and a 37-6 thrashing of Northern Illinois last Friday to open MAC play.

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Focus, discipline and now, depth, have been the keys to the Flashes' rise.

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''Even our practices are pretty intense with everyone really pushing each other,'' said junior heavyweight Brendan Barlow, a native of Westerville. ''Our starters aren't the only ones with talent on this team. We have backups at every weight class that would probably start on other MAC teams. Our depth is a big part of what makes us successful. If one of the starters gets hurt, another guy is right there to keep it going for us.''




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