Manley defends 170-pound title; Flames capture NCWA crown
March 10, 2018 | Allen, Texas
Top-seeded senior 235-pound wrestler Austin Amos pulled out a miraculous reversal in the closing seconds of his NCWA Grand National Championship final match against second-seeded defending champion Stevan Webb of UConn to lift Liberty University over Mid-Atlantic Conference rival Apprentice School, 157-156.5 in the final team standings, Saturday night at the Allen Event Center.
"It couldn't have gotten any closer than it was," Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro said. "I'm real proud of the guys."
Liberty, which won the men's NCWA National Duals for a record third time Jan. 26-27 at the LaHaye Ice Center, topped that title with an NCWA Grand Nationals trophy for the second time, repeating the feat from 2015.
Furthermore, Lady Flames second-seeded sophomore 170-pounder Cendall Manley defended her national championship, pinning Southwestern Oregon's top-seeded Saydie Kala in 4 minutes, 50 seconds in the final.
Amos and Webb were tied at 2-2, but Webb was on the verge of winning the match with a one-point bonus to be awarded for his riding time advantage.
"He throws a cradle on Amos and the clock was ticking," Castro said. "With two seconds left, Austin pulls his head out from the cradle and emerges with the reversal to go up 4-3."
Castro was confident in his senior, who transferred in from Roanoke last year, especially after he had competed at heavyweight on occasion throughout the season, often against NCAA Division I, II, and III opponents.
"The kid that he beat in the finals was huge," he said. "He had to be 6-foot-5, and all of 235 pounds. They looked like David and Goliath out there as Austin weighs like 210. He beat some good heavyweights this season."
But never in such dramatic fashion as in Saturday's final.
"Austin's a pretty experienced wrestler," Castro said. "He wasn't having much success on his feet, and he knew he was in a pretty desperate situation where he had to score at least one point to send it to overtime."
Apprentice surprised the NCWA tournament field by overtaking the Flames for first place on Friday's second day, which ended with the Builders holding a 130-128.5 advantage. After Liberty reclaimed a 4.5-point lead following Saturday's consolation finals, Apprentice moved back on top by 3.5 points by winning two of its three championship matches.
"I don't think anyone expected that," Castro said of Apprentice, a team Liberty had beaten by 25 points to claim its seventh straight MAC Tournament title, Feb. 24 at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center. "They definitely wrestled above themselves and had a terrific tournament. Kudos to them."
As a team, Liberty's men came away with nine all-Americans (top-eight finishers), including two consolation champions — 141-pound freshman Reid Stewart, a 5-2 winner over East Carolina's Wesley Hollingsworth, and 165-pound sophomore Joe Scott, who scored a 7-6 decision over BYU's Bailey Carlson in the duel for third-place.
At 174 pounds, sophomore Sam Karel finished fourth, dropping a 13-8 decision to Jacob Berry of Springfield Tech, before Josh McIlhenny pinned UConn's George Andrews 5:13 into their 184-pound fifth-place bout. Fellow Flames junior co-captain Dominick Johnson lost his fifth-place final by 3-2 decision to Ryan Mattison of Alfred State and Liberty also got eighth-place showings from three sophomores: Ashton Robinson (141), Andrew Burgette (157), and Luke Ely (174).
Complete results are available online.