March 19, 2012 By Marla Ridenour, Akron Beacon Journal
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Two years ago, Casey Newburg wrote “NCAA qualifier”on a piece of duct tape and slapped it on the mirror in themakeshift weight room in his parents’ garage.
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Last March, the Kent State wrestler narrowly missed that goal,failing to earn an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament despite a24-13 record. Sometime between the day those selections wereannounced and when he returned home for summer break, the mirrorfell off the wall and shattered.
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“It’s kind of ironic … you know the oldsayings, the black cat and the broken mirror and all that kind ofstuff,” said his father, Scott Newburg, who has coachedwrestling at Northmont High School outside Dayton for 24 years.“It was kind of weird, I went out there one day, and themirror is on the floor broken.”
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Those pieces symbolized how Casey Newburg felt after thesnub.
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“It was a huge disappointment,” he said. “Ihung my head for a little while. It took me a couple weeks to pickmyself up and put everything in perspective.”
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Even without the duct tape directive, Newburg didn’t losehis ambition. This season Newburg, a junior from Union, Ohio, went29-11 and earned one of 43 NCAA at-large berths. He will faceLehigh’s Robert Hamlin (29-1), the second seed at 184 poundswho reached the finals in 2011, this morning at the ScottradeCenter in St. Louis.
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Kent State sent a school-record seven qualifiers to thethree-day tournament, which runs through Saturday. Also competingin the 330-man field are senior Nic Bedelyon (125 pounds),sophomore Tyler Small (141), freshman Ian Miller (149), juniorMallie Shuster (157), junior Keith Witt (197) and senior BrendanBarlow (285). Bedelyon and Miller are seeded fifth, and Shuster wasalso an at-large pick.
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Newburg reaching the NCAAs is unusual since he never placed atthe state wrestling tournament in the two years that he qualified.That can be said of only one other competitor in his bracket,Steven Cressley of Clarion.
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“When I didn’t place in the state tournament in highschool, I came in here and had a lot to prove,” Newburg saidafter practice Monday. “No one knew anything about me. Ididn’t have the qualifications of everyone else. The rest ofthe guys on our team, they’ve all been in state finals andmost of them are state champs. I was willing to put in the work andkept believing in myself.”
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Kent State coach Jim Andrassy said most in Newburg’ssituation “will go the Division III or Division IIroute.”
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But the career of Newburg has been filled with broken mirror andblack cat moments that ended up turning out in his favor.
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His senior year at Northmont, Newburg came into the districttournament with only one loss, but he was upset in the first roundby a wrestler with a sub-.500 record. That loss set up a match inthe state tournament against Cody Lamberg of Kenmore, whom KSU wasrecruiting. Andrassy was there, watching closely.
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“He was winning going into the third period,”Andrassy said of Newburg. “I think he ran out of gas, whichis conditioning, which usually isn’t the kid’s fault,usually that’s the coaches’ fault. He ended up gettinga concussion, getting knocked out, I think.
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“I liked his first two periods a lot. Usually when Irecruit kids I watch the first period. After that, because ofcoaching, because of strategy, the second and third periods couldbe totally different than what a kid could be. I liked everything Isaw.”
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Andrassy learned that Scott Newburg had been a Division Iathlete, playing football at Ball State. Andrassy likedCasey’s good grades, his solid character and his family,which includes six siblings. Casey had also been a late bloomerphysically, wrestling at 125 pounds as a freshman but finishing hishigh school career at 189.
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When Andrassy called the following Monday and said Kent Statewas interested, Scott Newburg said Casey “hadn’t talkedto any other coach until that point.”
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“You never really hear of Division I coaches going afterwrestlers who had not placed in the state tournament,” ScottNewburg said. “Normally guys have won it at least once ormaybe twice. If he hadn’t lost that district match the weekbefore, they probably wouldn’t have even looked athim.”
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Andrassy has been so impressed with Newburg that he signedCasey’s brother Jonah to a letter-of-intent for nextseason.
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Scott Newburg credits Casey’s work ethic and ability tokeep his priorities straight as far as college life, but Casey saidhe blossomed at Kent State because he had better workout partnersthan in high school. Those have included Witt and Dustin Kilgore,who won the school’s first NCAA championship last season andis taking an Olympic redshirt year to try to qualify for the 2012Summer Games.
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In keeping with Newburg’s unorthodox wrestling career, atwist of fate nearly cost him his chance at the NCAAs this year,too. The top three in his weight class at the Mid-AmericanConference Tournament had guaranteed bids. He was seeded third butlost the consolation match.
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“It was almost like deja-vu all over again,” Newburgsaid. “I sweated it out for a couple days. It was a bigrelief.”
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Now that he has earned the trip he sought, Newburg is shootingfor another star. Before he graduates, he wants to become anAll-American, which goes to the top eight at the NCAAs.
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“That’s my goal, whether it’s this year ornext year,” he said. “I’m not treating it likeI’m waiting until next year.”



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