PHILADELPHIA - The Kent State wrestling program has carried a rich tradition that started in 1927, produced two NCAA finalists in the 1940s and over 20 All-Americans over the years, but one thing had always been missing...a national champion. That all changed Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center when junior Dustin Kilgore (Berea, Ohio) etched his name into Golden Flashes history, pinning Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster in the 197-pound final.
Foster, who entered the match undefeated on the season (26-0) led 5-1 following a second period escape. With 30 seconds remaining, the two wrestlers got into a scramble. Reaching for Foster's head, Kilgore appeared to establish control, but only for a second and no takedown was yet awarded. As the clock ran down Kilgore twisted his body back towards Foster's head, slid his arm underneath Foster's neck and flattened him with seconds left in the period.
"I saw him starting to get tired and right then I knew I had to push myself twice as hard," Kilgore said of the second period. "In practice I get in that position a lot and I was able to throw him on his back. It's the best feeling ever. "
"We knew their guy was tired," Head Coiach Jim Andrassy said. "Dustin just turned, popped his hips up and caught the head and the leg and once he got the leg up, their guy couldn't turn. I fully believe that even if he wouldn't have gotten the pin he would have dominated the rest of the match. Dustin is proof that if you work real hard, great things can happen."
On several occasions from the neutral positon, Kilgore had gotten in on Foster's legs, but could not finish off the takedown. Foster twice broke his leg free and twice was able to get out of bounds.
"I kept taking shots," Kilgore said. "Even though they weren't great shots, I was wearing him out. And that's where it opened up."
The fall brought Kent State's team total to 37 points, giving the Golden Flashes a 17th place finish, its highest since 1985.
"Dustin isn't so much a vocal leader on this team, but as far as work ethic, he sets the bar," Andrassy said. "And he's done everything we've asked him to do, He never questions what we do and why we do it. And now I think the rest of our guys will start to get that even more."
Kilgore was Kent State's first NCAA finalist since Walter Porowski in1942. He also became just the second two-time All-American in school history. Don Horning was first to do so in 1986.
Hammer thrower Jacques Accambray was the last individual at Kent State to win a national title at the 1973 Track & Field Championships.
Kilgore finished the year with a 38-2 record. Saturday night marked the 32nd pin of his college career.
"Right off the bat the first coaches that ever talked to me while I was in high school was Jim Andrassy and Josh Moore," Kilgore said of his college choice. "I knew right from the start they were dedicated. They wanted me more than anything. And I could see it in them they would work hard. They put everything towards me to getting a National title. And Kent State's never had a National champion. So I knew it would mean more to them than anywhere else."