Dustin Kilgore was floored when he first caught word that the International Olympic Committee executive board voted to remove wrestling from the list of 25 "core" summer sports last Tuesday, effectively nixing the sport from the 2020 Olympics at this time.
"l looked at my phone and I had texts from (KSU coach Jim Andrassy) and some other people telling me (wrestling) is out of the Olympics," said Kent State's star senior grappler, currently unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the nation at 197 pounds. "The first thing I'm thinking of is 2016."
Kilgore has dreamed of being an Olympian since his days as a youth wrestler growing up in Berea. After earning a national championship as a junior at Kent State in 2011, then competing with the top grapplers in the world during his Olympic redshirt season last year, the chances of that dream becoming a reality had soared.
Throughout his amazing run into the wrestling elite, Kilgore has had his sites firmly set on competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. While wrestling is safe for 2016, it's status from that point on is uncertain.
Kilgore, like the entire wrestling world, calmed down and refocused his energy as days passed following the stunning announcement by the IOC.
"It was a shock. At first I was really worried," said Kilgore. "But I think a lot of people throughout this country and other countries are working really, really hard to make things happen. Wrestlers, we're at the bottom of it; we can only do so much. But we've got the people on top that can really change things."
Someone familiar with those people is Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1988 and 1992. Smith was in Kent on Sunday leading his Cowboys to the NWCA National Duals Regional title at the M.A.C. Center, and spoke at length on the Olympic wrestling controversy afterward.
"I really believe that (cutting wrestling) wasn't on merit. I believe that, I really know that," said Smith. "They can take the 39 different criteria of whose in and whose out and ignore them or apply them. I'm not sure that they were applied. But we also need to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why this happened, which we're doing.
"We've taken a step as an international governing body. Our president has resigned. I don't know enough to say whether he did or didn't do his job. But I do believe we will create a situation for ourselves in May that will make sure we get back in in 2020."
Smith was referring to an IOC meeting scheduled for May in Russia, during which three sports will remain alive for one extra spot in the 2020 Olympics. The final Olympic sport will be selected during a meeting in September.
"The good thing is they left a process for us to get back in," said Smith. "I feel thankful we have the opportunity to get back in, and we'll use that opportunity to make it real, real hard to say no to wrestling. They're gonna hear the voices.
"Keep in mind wresting in (the 2012 Olympics) had over 70 countries that participated. It's been in the Olympic Games from the beginning. It just doesn't seem right with it out. The fight's just started, and I tell you there will be a fight."
Kent State head coach Jim Andrassy can see quite a fight coming if the IOC eliminates wrestling at that May meeting in Russia.
"There's less than a million people in the world who do modern pentathlon (one of the sports kept in the Olympics instead of wrestling), and there are a million people in the United State who wrestle. And it's not even our national sport," said Andrassy. "Russia, Iran, Iraq -- wrestling's their national sport. They're going into Russia to have this meeting, and if they cut wrestling in Russia it'll be interesting to see what happens.
"But I don't think it will happen. I think this will just make wrestling stronger."
No. 22 Kent State recorded a new season-high point total while defeating MAC rival and 24th-ranked Central Michigan 196.050-194.900 on Friday at the M.A.C. Center.
Junior Marie Case once again led the way for the Flashes by posting the best all-around performance of the day when her scores totaled 39.025, featuring a first-place finish on floor exercise (9.900).
Senior Lindsay Runyan gave Kent State a split on the uneven bars when she tied for first with Central Michigan's Kylie Fagen with a score of 9.900. Senior Lauren Wozniak also won the vault when she earned a 9.900 from the judges.
Kent State will visit Northern Illinois on Saturday.
USA Baseball has named Kent State senior first baseman George Roberts to its preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List, which recognizes the top 50 players in the country that will vie for the coveted Golden Spikes Award given to the top player in the county at the end of the season.
Roberts led the Flashes in batting average (.364), RBI (66) and slugging percentage (.549) in 2012. He also scored 45 runs and hit 23 doubles and eight home runs on his way to being named MAC Player of the Year and Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American.
TRACK & FIELD
Junior Katie Reiser sprinted her way into the record books by clocking a school-record 7.50 in the finals to claim first place at Saturday's Kent State Tune Up.
Junior Shanequa Williams won the 200 in 24.14 and the 400 in 54.43. Senior Keri Dantley recorded the sixth-best mark in school history to win the triple jump (40-11.5), and junior Ann Marie Duffus won the long jump with a leap of 19-7.
On the men's side, a pair of freshmen took top honors in field events. Jesse Oxley posted a mark of 16-4.75 in pole vault, Cody Jones cleared 6-9 to win the high jump, and senior Brandon Bailey won the 60 meters in 6.88.
Kent State will look to have a strong showing at this weekend's MAC Indoor Track & Field Championships. The women have won two of the last three conference crowns, while the men have taken second place two years in a row.