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Liberty Wrestling Takes Seventh-Straight Dual
Liberty wrestling used four bonus-point wins on its way to a 28-13 victory over VMI, Sunday afternoon, in the Vines Center, securing its seventh-consecutive dual win, where the program's five seniors were honored. The Flames won six of the ten weight-class bouts in the contest, including five of the last six match-ups.
Liberty's dual record improves to 13-6 on the year, while also claiming its ninth-consecutive victory over the Keydets. The Flames are now 3-0 at home this season, with this being their first contested match in the Vines Center. With the defeat, visitors VMI drop to 4-8 on the season.
Liberty's seventh-straight dual meet victory is the longest single-season streak since the 1980-81 season, when Bob Bonheim's squad went a perfect 11-0. However, this isn't the first time head coach Jesse Castro has had a streak of seven straight. Castro led his team to six successive victories to end the 2009 campaign before rolling off four straight to begin 2010, resulting in a 10-dual streak over multiple seasons.
Robert Jillard and John Pope found themselves knotted at four through one period at 125 pounds to open the dual. While Jillard struck first, Pope tallied a reversal along with a takedown later in the period for his tallies. After tacking on an escape in the second, Pope gained the 5-4 edge, which he would hold on to in the final time frame to give the Keydets a 3-0 advantage.
T. J. Mitchell responded for the Flames with a dominating performance at 133 pounds against Charles Gray. Mitchell gained a 7-0 advantage through the opening two periods, scoring a takedown, a three-point near fall and a reversal. The Hazlet, N.J., native then scored three additional takedowns in the closing period, along with three more back points. His 5:47 of accumulated riding time added another point to his total at the conclusion of the bout, giving him a 17-2 technical fall for his fifth-straight and sixteenth overall victory.
With the Flames taking the 5-3 lead, Joey Montgomery and Ryan Goodsell took the mat at 141 pounds. After drawing 3-3 through two periods, the Keydets' Goodsell controlled the final two minutes of action, earning an escape and a takedown. He also gained a penalty point and the riding time bonus for the 8-3 win, giving VMI a one-point advantage, 6-5.
The Keydets' Mike Long countered with an 8-1 victory at 149 pounds over Flames senior, Peter Crawford. Long scored seven points in the second frame of action behind an escape, a takedown and two two-point near falls. With 3:17 of riding time, Long received the bonus for the 8-1 decision, extending the Keydets' dual lead to four, 9-5.
Liberty's Julian Colon then picked up the second technical fall victory of the day for the Flames, winning 16-1 over VMI's Mike Burnett. To open the 157-pound bout, Colon scored a takedown and three back points. The East Petersburg, Pa., native then built his lead to 11-0 through two periods, scoring an escape, a takedown and a three-point near fall. Liberty's co-captain tacked on a takedown, multiple penalty points for stalling against Burnett, and the riding bonus in the final period for the 16-1 victory. The win gave the Flames the dual lead once again, 10-9.
After being honored as a senior to open the dual, Chad Porter made quick work of his opponent at 165 pounds, earning the win by fall just one minute into the bout. His victory over Ted Gottwald was the 102nd of his career, surpassing his head coach, Jesse Castro, for seventh on Liberty's all-time wins list. The six points made the Flames' lead 16-9.
The Keydets' team leader in wins, Matt Brock, then answered at 174 pounds, picking up a 15-2 major decision over Eli Sanchez. Despite scoring first with a takedown, Sanchez found himself down 9-2 through two periods. Matt Brock scored three back points in the final stanza, to go along with multiple penalty points from Sanchez stalling, and the riding time bonus. The Keydets' deficit was trimmed to three, 16-13, with the win but would be the last points tallied by the visitors.
Aaron Kelley wasn't to be outdone by his teammate Porter, as he'd earn his own win by fall in the 184-pound bout. Kelley ended his match in just 57 seconds, pinning Evan Dill to extend the Flames' lead to 22-13. The redshirt senior's win is his seventh-consecutive victory, and fourth win by fall in that stretch.
In a tight match at 197 pounds, the Flames' Aaron Thompson used a first-period takedown to earn a 2-1 decision over John Dommert. The only other points in the bout came in the final two-minutes of action, with Dommert escaping to open the period. Thompson defended the remainder of the time to hold on and give Liberty a 25-13 lead, sealing the team's seventh-consecutive dual victory with one bout remaining.
In the closing heavyweight bout, Josh Pelletier used his accumulated riding time to pick up the victory after he and Juan Adams were knotted at two-each through regulation. The Flames' third redshirt senior scored a takedown in the first, while Adams escaped in the first and second period for his two points in the bout. Pelletier's victory made the final dual result 28-13 in favor of Liberty.
Aside from the four aforementioned seniors, Justin Krop was also honored on Senior Day. Krop has been with the program for four years and has added depth to the middle weights, competing at four different weight classes during his career. This season the Monrovia, Md., native has competed at 157 pounds.
Liberty's three redshirt seniors, Porter, Kelley and Pelletier all picked up wins on their Senior Day. Each of the grapplers came to Liberty for the 2006-07 season, when the wrestling program was reinstated. During their time on Liberty Mountain, the trio has accumulated a 215-133 mark, winning at a 61.8 percent clip. Porter and Kelley came from Parkersburg South High School in West Virginia, while Pelletier is from Charleston, Maine and grappled for Foxcroft Academy.
The Flames next dual is on Thursday when they travel to Salem, Va. to face Atlantic Coast Conference foe, Virginia Tech. The Hokies are currently ranked No. 6 in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll. Contested at Andrew Lewis Middle School, the contest is slated for an 8 p.m. start.