Liberty’s wrestlers earned an overall team victory at the NCAA East Regional Wrestling Championship on Sunday. The Flames posted an impressive 108.5 team points for the event, 41 points more than the next highest finisher, Gardner Webb (67.5 points).
Delaware State’s Matt Cathell was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for his performance in the tournament which included a win by fall in his Championship match.
The win marks the second straight year the Flames have won the tournament. Head Coach Jesse Castro was also honored with East Regional Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
Last year, Liberty sent four grapplers to the national tournament, and it increased that number to six this season with all four from the previous year repeating as regional champions.
Christian Smith (133 pounds), Tim Harner (141 pounds), Chad Porter (165 pounds), Aaron Kelley (174 pounds), Chris Daggett (184 pounds) and Patrick Walker (285 pounds) each won their respective divisions.
“The feeling of sending six to the Nationals is intensely gratifying,” said Castro. “We had our sites set high this year for this qualifier and have met that expectation. The team has endured double, sometimes triple-day practices preparing themselves for this task.”
Liberty’s six champions were the most of any in the East Region, with no other school sending more than one wrestler to wrestling’s biggest collegiate tournament.
Over the course of the year, the Flames wrestled against some of the country’s top schools from other conferences, and while this took its toll on the team, Castro believes it made them better in the end.
“This was a year of tearing down and rebuilding,” he said. “Our schedule was grueling, to say the least….This team was broken down physically and mentally during the mid course of the season only to bounce back, allowing the rigors of such a schedule to better them, molding them into the dominant team we witnessed today.”
Overall, the team standings were exactly the same as the previous year. Duquesne University finished with 63.5 points, rounding out the top three, while Millersville University finished just one point behind with 62.5 points.
Delaware State University (44.0) and Wagner College (13.0) finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Liberty’s six winners move onto the NCAA Tournament, which will be hosted by Missouri and held at the Scottrade Center on March 20. Castro made it clear his team is not going to take it easy in preparation.
“After a day of rest, we are going to start up again,” he said.
“No time to bask in this feat when we are about to enter in the ‘lion’s den’…We will stay the course, lift, condition, spar and drill, drill, drill and drill more of our skills. A lot of mental work will go into the next two weeks as well.’”
Contact Thomas Lourdeau at firstname.lastname@example.org.