PERRY'S CASEY SPARKMAN TO REPRESENT KENT STATE IN NCAA WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
Perry product Casey Sparkman, now a sophomore at Kent State University, is one of two wrestlers who will represent the Golden Flashes at the NCAA Championships. The event will be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Coach Jim Andrassy's squad has had at least one All American for eight consecutive years, which is the 10th longest active streak in the nation. Sparkman, who finished third at 157 pounds in the Mid American Conference, received one of seven at large bids in the 33 man NCAA Championship bracket for his weight class.
“There were a lot of nerves the Tuesday after we got back (from the MAC Championships),” Sparkman admitted. “I went to the Preschool where I student teach from 8:30-12:30. I got out and started walking to class, and I got a text from someone that said 'Congratulations, you probably already know, and that's really cool.' I had no clue what they were talking about. Right after that I got a whole bunch of text saying congratulations, so I was the last one to figure out that I was going.”
Sparkman has a 25-12 record on the season. His win total is the best on the Kent State squad, and he also leads the team with seven technical falls. He has runner up finishes at the Clarion Open, the Navy Classic and the Lock Haven Classic to his credit during the regular season. Sparkman defeated Aaron Walker of the Citadel and Jake Danishek of Indiana at the Cliff Keen LasVegas Invitational earlier this season, and both of those wrestlers are in this weekend's championship bracket. Mid American conference wrestlers are well represented in the 157 pound bracket. Missouri's Joey Lavallee and Central Michigan's Colin Heffeman, both of whom defeated Sparkman twice, will also compete in St. Louis this weekend. Sparkman, who has battled several injuries this season, enters the championship bracket with a confident and healthy frame of mind.
“I feel about as good as my body will allow me to feel,” Sparkman said. “I've been working really hard, keeping my weight down, eating right and working smart. These last couple of weeks I've felt better than I did in the beginning of the season without the injuries that I have now.”
The top 15 wrestlers are seeded in each bracket of the double elimination tournament. Sparkman's first assignment will be to tackle 14th seeded Sal Mastriani of Virginia Tech, who enters the tournament with a record of 16-6.
“(Mastriani) likes to do under hooks, and he's pretty good on top,” Sparkman said. “I am focusing a little bit on what he does, but ultimately in wrestling you have to focus on what you can control. (Perry) coach (Dave) Riggs once told me that the best way to win a tournament is to score more points than everyone you wrestle against. I'm just going to wrestle like I like to wrestle. I'm going to try to stay in good position and make as few mistakes as I can.”