November 14, 2012 By Marla Ridenour, Beacon Journal
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KENT: Dustin Kilgore believes his fishing buddy in Cuba wasaround 40 years old. He told his dad the man had very few teeth andmight not have owned any clothes except the T-shirt and shorts healways wore.
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They went out late at night, when bait fish glide through theocean’s shallows and big fish follow; Kilgore, a 23-year-oldNCAA champion from Kent State, and a couple of fellow wrestlers andthe nearly toothless man. The man was very knowledgeable about thewaters because he struggled to put food on the table. If he had atable.
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Invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs afterwinning KSU’s first NCAA wrestling title in 2011, Kilgoretook a year off from college to get ready for the 2012 OlympicTrials and compete around the world. Spending a little over a weekin Cuba for a tournament, much of that feeling like a vacationbecause he was merely practicing against the Cuban team, Kilgoreindulged his passion for fishing on the balmy beaches.
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He also did what he always does — make friends and helppeople.
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Kilgore snuck out food from his hotel, mainly fruit and seafood,because the man and the two friends who showed up occasionally hadso little. On the last night, he gave them his fishing rod andtackle.
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“He was kind of like a mini-ambassador,” said hisfather, Kevin Kilgore.
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But the image that will stick with the Berea native was theman’s reaction when Kilgore discovered a fish about two feetlong in one of the tide pools.
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“He grabbed it out and held it up, so thankful,”Kilgore said.
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Kilgore’s year away also included competitions in London,Azerbaijan (north of Iran), Finland, Poland and the Ukraine. Thetrip to Azerbaijan, Poland and the Ukraine lasted about a month,the others single jaunts.
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“Cuba was fun because it’s in the Caribbean, and Iwon the tournament,” Kilgore said last week after a KSUpractice. “But there was something I liked about all ofthem.”
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He explored the cities, happy to have a translator about his agein Azerbaijan so he could take in the sights and sounds of thehistorical capital of Baku, on the Caspian Sea.
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“He was a really upbeat, happy kid; he loved hanging outwith us,” Kilgore said. “We took him everywhere. Thatwas neat to see completely different culturesinteracting.”
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Kilgore saw the mosques in Azerbajian. In London he visited theLondon Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Eye, things hehad only seen on television, and vowed to return.
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In the Ukraine he stayed at the Olympic training center outsideKiev. At night the wrestlers caught a bus and headed downtown.Kilgore loved the nice people and beautiful scenery, with theDnieper River flowing through.
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He found Finland to be the least friendly, with people on thestreets failing to respond when he said hello.
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“I’ve got a friend from Finland, and he saidthat’s normal,” Kilgore said.
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There was a language barrier, especially in Azerbaijan, butKilgore made good use of the four years and three semesters ofSpanish he took in middle school, high school and college.Sometimes he got by with hand signals.
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The other wrestlers might have found the food choiceschallenging, but that was not the case with Kilgore.
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“I’m like a garbage disposal; I’ll put it alldown,” he said.
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Because he was wrestling at 211 pounds (96 kilos), he foundhimself a bit undersized for international competition and couldeat whatever he wanted.
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His favorite was in Azerbaijan, where the cooking is similar toGreek.
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“They had a lot of fish and cheeses and yogurt, bread andvegetables. They eat a lot of sturgeon,” he said. “Cubawas excellent, squid, fish, shrimp, a lot of rice. Poland had a lotof sausages. London, their breakfast food, a spongy, circularbread, was delicious. They eat a lot of beans with theirbreakfast.”
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He savored the English bacon.
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“I’m trying not to eat it before I wrestle,it’s a little too greasy for me, but I can’t help it,it’s too good,” Kilgore said.
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He also enjoyed fishing for pike and something similar to ourwalleye in Finland.
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Kevin Kilgore, a carpenter, won’t be surprised if his soneventually moves to Colorado because of his love of theoutdoors.
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“He’s a freedom, open-air kind of guy,” KevinKilgore said last week by phone. “He’s gotten someinvites for mule deer hunting, possible elk down the road, coyote.Plus trout fishing and all Colorado has to offer in its pristinestreams and lakes and rivers. I’m envious of myson.”
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Along the way, Kilgore posted photos on his Facebook page so hismore than 2,000 friends could follow.
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“He’s outgoing, he’s friendly, he justattracts people. He’s got a big circle because ofthat,” Kevin Kilgore said.
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Now Kilgore is back at Kent State, hoping to win a second NCAAtitle before he graduates in May with a degree in justice studies.In 2011, he became just the third Golden Flash to reach a nationalfinal, joining Mike Slepecky (1941) and Walter Porowski (1942).
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After spending a year wrestling freestyle, he’s adjustingback to the collegiate folkstyle. Kent State coach Jim Andrassysaid Kilgore is stronger than he’s ever been, putting onabout 15 pounds of muscle. Kilgore will continue to wrestle at 197pounds for KSU.
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“He’s a favorite to win it,” Andrassy said ofthe NCAA title. “It’s a long season, he’s got alot to do. He’s very focused on being a two-time nationalchamp and an Olympian.”
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Kilgore said he should be at his wrestling peak for the 2016Olympics in Brazil. He said he might even have a chance in 2020 ifhis body holds up.
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After he graduates, he’ll return to the Olympic TrainingCenter and resume his international schedule. But he tries not tolook too far ahead, even as the world beckons.
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“It’s in me to keep wrestling and not stop,”Kilgore said. “I’ve always wanted to travel. I loveexperiencing new cultures and meeting new people. I’m lookingforward to doing it for the next four years and evenlonger.”



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