Nov 11, 2008

Flames wrestlers set for another grueling season on mats

by Adam Palmer

The Liberty wrestling team finished the 2007-2008 season with its second straight NCAA regional title and is now hungry for a three-peat in this upcoming season.

Coach Castro used a red versus blue scrimmage to see who would win the top spots for the upcoming season. Some of the top wins included a win by the freshman Joe Pantaleo in a four-point major decision and win by Christian Smith, who is a two-time NCAA national qualifier.

With its first match set for today versus Gardner-Webb, three of the Liberty Flames wrestlers have already gained preseason national attention. The National Wrestling Coaches Association and USA Today released the individual preseason rankings and placed Tim Harner, Chad Porter and Chris Daggett as Top 20 wrestlers in their respective weight classes.

Harner, a senior from Norristown, Pa., ranked the highest among the three at No. 17 in his 141-pound weight class. Harner’s rank reflects in his performance in the 2007-2008 season, he led the Flames with 11 wins by fall and 32 victories total. Harner was also one of two Flame wrestlers who made it into the “Sweet 16” in last years NCAA National Championship.

Porter, a senior from Parkersburg, W. Va comes into this season ranked No. 18 at the national level. Porter will be red-shirting to focus on academics. Last year, Porter joined Harner in the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA National Championship. Porter’s birth into the “Sweet 16” led to Liberty’s first-ever tournament win upsetting No. 16 Kurt Swartz from Boise State.

Daggett, a senior also from Parkersburg, W. VA, enters the season listed as the No. 19 in the country for his weight class. Some of Daggett’s accomplishments include a trip to the NCAA National Championship and an NCAA East Regional title.

The 2008-2009 schedule is highlighted by the Body Bar Invitational tournament hosted by No. 3 Cornell University. This will be a very competitive tournament and host some of the country’s elite wrestlers.

“I’m very optimistic about this tournament. There are going to be 16 teams there, and our goal is to be in the top eight,” Head Coach Jesse Castro said.

The Flames will kick off the season against the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs on Tuesday Nov. 11. The last time the Flames faced Gardner-Webb they toppled the Bulldogs 34-6 at the East Regional Duals.

“Gardner-Webb is our greatest opposition,” Castro said. They’ve upgraded their schedule and they have some very good recruits this year. They will be gunning for us.”

The Liberty Flames wrestling program was dormant until 2005 season when Castro was hired in an effort to resurrect the program. Three years later, they now have an obtainable goal of a third straight NCAA Regional title.

“Unless Lord built this house it is built in vain, it is the Lord building this house and if it wasn’t for him this wouldn’t happen so I just want to give him the honor and glory for it,” Castro said.

Today’s match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center. On Saturday, the Flames will travel to Charleston, S.C. for a tri-match with Limestone College and the Citadel hosted on the Citadel’s campus.


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