Feb 12, 2008

Wrestling reels off come-from-behind victory

by William Armstrong
Veteran leadership and youth with potential are two key components that drive the wrestling team towards Nationals this year. These characteristics were on display when the Flames encountered the George Mason Patriots and the UNC-Greensboro Spartans in a tri-match.

“We wrestled above my expectations. To go out and beat the team we lost to last year was fabulous,” sophomore Patrick Walker said. Liberty, now 11-10-1, opened its night by falling to the Patriots 20-18, but it had a surge against the Spartans when it won five straight matches, pulling off a dramatic 21-15 victory.

Walker started his night off with a victory over Harry Zander, improving his record to 25-9. Walker scored first with an early takedown and took over the rest of the match by overpowering Zander. After Walker’s match, Liberty led the team score 4-0. Brian Wright cut Liberty’s team lead to 4-3 with a victory over sophomore Sean Katz. Wright led 2-0 after the first period, Katz tied the match with a late takedown in the second and Wright cruised on to victory in the third 5-2. The match cut Liberty’s team lead to 4-3.

Freshman T.J. Mitchell lost a nail biter to Joe Coughlin 6-2 and put George Mason in the lead 6-4. The match was neck-and-neck until Coughlin ran away with it in the third period.

Junior Tim Harner’s and Will Powars’ match followed. Harner scored takedowns just before the first and second period ended and notched a takedown in the third to ice the victory 7-3, which put Liberty ahead 7-6.

Freshman Scott Clymer edged Brandon Bucher 2-0 with 13 seconds remaining in the match with a reversal that brought the crowd to their feet. With the win, Liberty led 10-6. Freshman Julian Colon cut Frankie McLaughlin’s lead to 3-2 in the third period, but it was not enough as Liberty’s lead was trimmed to 10-9.

Sophomore Chad Porter pulled off a big win and score for his team as he beat Andrew Rock in a major decision 16-3. Porter had five takedowns and five back points awarded to him. Liberty extended its lead to 14-9.

George Mason’s Randy Oates stole a victory as he pinned sophomore Aaron Kelley. Kelley had a good start getting a couple takedowns and a near fall, but Oates pinned him shortly after. George Mason regained the lead 15-14 with the important win. Junior Chris Daggett rejuvenated Liberty’s lead with a 16-5 victory. Daggett scored points with three takedowns, six back points and a reversal. Liberty led 18-15, but that would be short lived.

The Patriots sent out the 16th ranked wrestler Cael Byars, who proved his ranking by winning a major decision against freshman Nick Knowles to capture the team victory for George Mason 20-18. Next, the Flames closed the night out with a 21-15 win over the Spartans.

Walker notched his second victory of the night over Ryan Hsu. A late takedown in the third period won the match for Walker and put Liberty on top 3-0.

Mitchell Johnson of Greensboro defeated Katz to tie the match 3-3. Johnson and Katz traded close pin attempts and were tied at 11 going into overtime. Mitchell earned the victory 20 seconds into overtime with the takedown. The 17th-ranked wrestler Jeff Hedges dealt an 8-2 loss to Mitchell, putting the Spartans ahead 6-3.

Harner gave the Flames with an important 10-5 victory over Ben Wilmore. Harner recorded his 25th victory of the season in which he had a takedown and a three-point close fall. The match tied the team score 6-6. In another low scoring match, Marcus Hannah scored the winning point on an escape to gain the 3-2 victory and give the Spartans the lead 9-6.

Colon’s two takedowns, including one late in the second, led to an important 4-3 win, which tied the team score 9-9. Consecutive matches were gained by Liberty when Porter defeated Byron Sigmon 8-1. Porter had a takedown late in the second and a takedown and three back points in the third to capture the match.

Kelley secured Liberty’s first fall of the night when he pinned Mikal McKee in the first period to increase Liberty’s lead to 18-9. Daggett won a 4-2 decision to end the Flames night with a 1-1 record in the tri-match.

“It was an awesome night, even though we lost at first,” Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “We had a great effort against two great teams, and for us to beat them is great for this program.”

Liberty will finish its season on the road as it heads into Appalachian State on Feb. 13 and VMI Feb. 22. Contact William Armstrong at wsarmstrong@liberty.edu.
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