Over the past few years, Edinboro wrestling coach Tim Flynn has grown used to walking into his team’s training room on scheduled days off to find a familiar face using his awarded free time to train.
It’s who Mitchell Port is. The former Bellefonte High star lives a wrestling lifestyle.
So when he broke his collarbone training with a heavier teammate in June, it wasn’t that big of a deal. At least not to Flynn, who had faith his 141-pound star would be back in no time to chase an NCAA championship.
“If you’re really training hard year-round — which he does — a little setback like that, a couple of weeks of not working out in the big picture of the last 10 years isn’t a lot,” Flynn said.
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So Port went under the knife, had his clavicle surgically repaired, spent a few weeks in a sling and on stationary bikes, then resumed his quest to win the NCAA title he’s been dreaming about since he stepped on Edinboro’s campus nearly four years ago.
Sure, Port’s done plenty in his career to go down as one of Edinboro’s best. His resume includes a Midlands title, two PSAC championships, an EWL and PSAC Wrestler of the Year Award, and he became the first NCAA All-American to come out of Bellefonte in 51 years last spring.
Port’s name has also been attached to the Hodge Trophy as one of the finalists to nail down college wrestling’s Heisman Trophy this season.
“It’s pretty neat,” Port said of his Hodge consideration. “It’s a great thing to be in the top couple, but I don’t think anybody notices that after the fact. I have to finish as well as I’ve been doing, if not better, to be in the (discussion) for that and hopefully win nationals as well.”
It’s an honor that barely eluded him last season when Port lost 4-3 to Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple in the NCAA finals. And it’s the one he thinks about and is motivated by all the time.
“It’s still back there,” Port said of the bout with Maple. “I think about it every day and there’s a huge difference between first and second. Second doesn’t compare.”
Maple used a footsweep at the edge of the mat to take a 2-0 lead in the first period plus 2:04 in riding time to post the win. It was Port’s inability to finish shots and get out from under Maple that doomed his chance to win a national title. He used that match as a jumping-off point to dial in his offseason training.
“I’ve been focusing a lot more on little specific things,” Port said. “A couple of those things, the specifics of the reasons why I lost (to Maple) last year. Just trying to move faster all the time. Every once in a while, I get a little sluggish. I’m trying to eliminate that.”
Maple has since moved up a weight class to 149. Port is now the man atop the 141-pound rankings. And he’s continued to progress this season. So far, Port is 21-0 with 10 of his wins coming by fall and four wins over fellow ranked wrestlers. His record includes a 5-0 run at the Midlands Championships during a two-day span that Flynn described as “dominant.”
“I think he’s wrestling well, protecting his legs,” Flynn said. “His conditioning has always been really good. He looks big and strong for the weight. But he’s been protecting his legs and really not giving up a lot of points.”
It’s a big reason for Port’s continued run of success.
During his freshman season, Port surrendered an average of just over four points per match that didn’t end in a fall. That average dropped by a point last season. This year’s he’s giving up an average of just two points per bout.
Meanwhile, Port continues to be a blanket on top of his opponents. He’s kept his opponents from scoring in 10 bouts dating to last season.
Port is 15 wins away from 100 in his career. While Port is more likely to get to that threshold next season — the Fighting Scots have just three duals and the EWL Championships left before NCAAs — he will have a chance to get what he wants in March.
“He’s already had one shot at winning. He was in the finals,” Flynn said. “He’s competing for a national championship last year and hopefully he will be this year and next. He’s right where we wanted him to be.”