By John Bassetti
Ross Tice won’t be making the spring break pilgrimage with fellow Kent State students starting Friday, but the junior would celebrate if he had a good three-day tournament at the NCAA wrestling championships.
The 2007 Brookfield High graduate will have his first-round match today at approximately noon at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Thoughts of beaches and bikinis will be as distant as Panama City, Fla. or South Padre Island, Texas, because the 22-year-old Tice will be pre-occupied with a 33-man bracket in his 165-pound weight class.
“I’ll just take it one match at a time and see how far it takes me,” Tice (28-12) said of his approach, starting with today’s match against Donald Jones of West Virginia.
Tice and teammate Matt Cathell qualified when they were awarded at-large bids.
Tice sealed his spot following a strong showing in the MAC championships earlier this month, finishing second to Buffalo’s John-Martin Cannon.
“They leave extra spots in brackets and replace five or six people per weight who didn’t do well in the conference tournament,” Tice said in explaining the at-large or wild-card process that enabled him to gain entry.
“Toward the end of the [MAC] championships, I started building momentum and, hopefully, I’ll use that starting tomorrow [today].”
Tice also reached the nationals last year when he went 1-2, also at 165, in Omaha.
In 2010, Tice advanced by receiving an automatic bid following a runner-up finish in the MAC tournament.
“They took two automatic qualifying spots and I took second,” he said. “But this year was more nerve-wracking because it wasn’t as certain that I would make it.”
Ross was bounced in the round of 24 last year.
“You can’t lose more than two unless you’re in the placement round,” he said of a goal of winning his first and second matches for a 2-2 finish, at worst, in the double-elimination event.
A 5-0 record is synonymous with a championship.
In freestyle wrestling, Ross said that he’s better when in the top position.
“I like to score a lot of points from the top,” Ross said of his preference that, technique-wise, turns an opponent through tilts to get back points.
“If I’m on top, I’ll try to yank him sideways and then on his back.”
In high school, Tice, the son of Rich and Tracy Tice of Brookfield, was a state runner-up at 160 as a senior.
Instead of 14 weight classes, college wrestling has 10.
Tice said he may struggle to reach 165 early in the season, but then, once he’s down, he’s OK.
“I‘m pretty comfortable during the season,” he said. “I’ve spiked to 175 occasionally, but that’s the highest I’ll get during the season.”
Besides, Cathell, a senior at 157, Tice’s teammates in Philadelphia are Nic Bedelyon (125), Tyler Small (133), Dustin Kilgore (197) and Brendan Barlow (285). The Golden Flashes have had five or more NCAA qualifiers in six straight seasons.
So far, a highlight came Tice’s freshman year.
“We won the MAC regular-season championship in a dual meet by beating Central Michigan at their place.”
Whatever the outcome this weekend, Kent cuts back on its regimen in springtime.
“We’ll practice a few days a week and lift and find different open tournaments to go to, but it’s a more relaxed training.”
Tice, who anticipates teaching high school mathematics, stayed on campus the last two summers, taking classes and staying busy with lifting, running and practice with teammates.