Mar 9, 2010

Wrestling wins fourth straight East Regional

by Brittany Barclay

The Liberty University Wrestling team dominated the East Region while placing first in the NCAA Eastern Regional Championship with a record-breaking team score for Liberty of 110.5 points.

Behind the overall team win, six individuals placed first in their weight class, sending them to the NCAA National Tournament.

Since the Flames reinstated the wrestling program in the 2006-07 season, Liberty has been in control of the East Region by winning all four team titles and also 18 individual weight class titles.

The day started brightly for the Flames with the first match that surprised nearly everyone. Freshman Jonathan Childress came into the event this Saturday after losing his past six matches. Childress rallied in the final period to score four points and win the bout with a score of 6-5 against Campbell’s C.J. Gittens.

Childress’ second match was even more dramatic, against the No. 1 seed, Gardner-Webb’s Michael Slaughter. Making it look easy, Childress controlled the action and took an 11-6 victory, claiming the regional title for the 125-pound weight class.

Joe Pantaleo of Liberty had a much easier time than his teammate, claiming the No. 1 seed in the 133-pound weight class. Pantaleo rocked the mat with a 9-3 victory over Gardner-Webb’s Brett Kostern, and a 13-1 win against Campbell’s Richie Apolinar.

Next was Pennsylvania native Scott Clymer, in the 141-pound weight class. Clymer started the day off with a bye match, and then put on a dominating performance against Campbell’s Kelin Bidelspach. Clymer started strong with a quick 2-0 lead and thrilled the crowd with a massive 14-0 major decision victory. This win marked Liberty’s third national qualifier for the day.

Senior and team captain, Frankie Gayeski, wrestling in the 149-weight class, began his day with a huge 11-3 major decision victory over Duquesne’s Josh Pascazi.

Gayeski’s goal of being a national champion almost slipped away in his second bout with Millersville’s John Lester.

Neither of the wrestlers made a shot to score throughout the first period. Points finally made the scoreboard when Gayeski slipped away from Lester to score points for an escape. Lester then did the same on Gayeski in the start of the third, but Gayeski countered the move with a takedown while in the bottom of the last period. The move gave Gayeski the region champion title for the 149-weight class, and also qualified him for nationals along with the previous three teammates.

The next weight class was the highlighted and most anticipated match of the event. Liberty’s senior Shawn Smith was to wrestle in the 157-pound weight class.

Though a close match, Smith was able to grab a win over Gardner-Webb’s Alex Medved with a score of 8-7. However, his second match was not what Liberty wanted. Millersville’s Jarrett Hostetter, a 2007 and 2008 champion of the region was pitted against Smith. The much awaited for match ended quick as Hostetter put a quick move on Smith during the first period that took him down for good in only 1:28. The loss by fall ended Smith’s career at Liberty with an overall record of 62-58, giving him a permanent place in Liberty’s Eagle Medal Club at the Bronze Level.

Liberty bounced back as Chad Porter in the 165-pound weight class continued what he has done in past years and took both victories against Campbell’s Chris Mazzatta and Millersville’s Jeremy Brooks.

In the 174-weight class, Brad Clark advanced to the finals for his second year in a row when he scored a win by fall over Duquesne’s Seth Csaszar. Clark was pitted against Millersville’s Shane Smith. The bout was tied 2-2 after the first two periods, but ended after Smith scored in the last period. Clark ended his season with a 23-7 record.

The No. 1 seed in the 184-pound weight class was Nick Knowles, who won both his matches, sending him to nationals. His first match was against Millersville’s Josh Marquard, and second with Gardner-Webb’s Jonathan Velazquez.

Then, Liberty’s Jacobi Johnson in the 197-pound weight class was the first to not make it to the championship round of the tournament by losing against Duquesne’s Justin Buchanan in the semifinals.

Josh Pelletier of Liberty put on a great show with his easily won match against Nadeem Farah from Duquesne. His second match, pitted against nationally ranked Dustin Porter of Gardner-Webb, Pelletier held strong throughout the match. Porter scored an early escape and a late takedown to secure the win for the match, giving Pelletier a loss 5-2.

Hostetter of Millersville was named Most Outstanding Wrestler, while Liberty University’s Coach Castro was given the title of NCAA East Region Coach of the Year, for the third straight year.

Contact Brittany Barclay

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