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Flames Fall to No. 6 Hokies in Salem
The loss snaps the Flames' seven-dual winning streak and drops Liberty's dual record to 13-7 on the year. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech picks up its 20th win on the year, to only four losses while stretching its own win streak to seven.
Justin Branham began the match for the Flames at 125 pounds, in what was his first dual match of the season. Meeting No. 14 Jarrod Garnett, Branham faced a 4-1 deficit through the opening three minutes of action. Garnett tallied three additional takedowns in the final two periods as well as a reversal to put the Hokies on the board with the early 4-0 lead.
The Flames' T. J. Mitchell faced another ranked grappler in No. 10 Devin Carter at 133 pounds. Mitchell struck first with a takedown early in the first, but the remainder of his points came by scoring escapes. Carter gained a large advantage afterwards and led 10-4 through one period. Carter added to his lead in the closing periods to earn Virginia Tech its second-straight major decision, 15-6, and snapping Mitchell's personal five-bout win streak.
At 141 pounds, Joey Montgomery was pinned in the first period (1:59), with Zach Neibert extending Virginia Tech's dual lead to 14-0 to open the match.
Flames senior Peter Crawford then battled former teammate Cameron Hurd at 149 pounds. While Hurd gained the 6-2 advantage through one period, Crawford held his deficit to four entering the final period. Beginning the last time frame neutral, Crawford and Hurd battled for position. Crawford had an opportunity to cut the lead to just two, but Hurd turned the tables to put the match out of reach with another takedown, taking the bout 12-5.
In a 17-0 hole, Julian Colon faced the Hokies' third ranked grappler on the evening, No. 5 Jesse Dong. Dong opened a 12-1 edge through two periods. During the final frame, he tacked on two more takedowns to earn the 17-3 decision and push the score to 21-0, Virginia Tech.
Redshirt senior Chad Porter looked to post the first points for Liberty at 165 pounds, facing yet another ranked Hokie. Porter used two takedowns in the opening period to gain a 5-4 edge over No. 14 Pete Yates. In the second, Yates escaped from the down position, but Porter received a penalty point, as well as another takedown to take an 8-5 edge into the final two minutes. The Parkersburg, W.Va., native then tacked on two more takedowns in the last period to take the major decision, 15-7, and put the Flames on the board, 21-4.
Registering his eighth win in his last nine bouts, Porter now has 103 career victories in a Liberty singlet. His win versus a ranked opponent is the second of his career, and first since his sophomore season. His previous victory came in the opening bout of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, as he defeated No. 16 Kurt Swartz of Boise State with a 7-4 decision.
Next, Matt Epperly posted the second win by fall for the Hokies, pinning Eli Sanches 1:23 into the bout and placing Virginia Tech's advantage at 27-4.
At 184 pounds, Aaron Kelley opened his bout by taking a 6-1 advantage through three minutes of action with John Dickson. Kelley scored two takedowns and added two back points for his points. In the second, Dickson closed the gap, tallying five points in the period to trail 9-6 leading into the final stanza. The Flames' redshirt senior then held Dickson scoreless the remainder of the bout, while scoring three more points of his own. Kelley took the decision 13-6 to bring Liberty's team point total to seven.
Kelley has now registered eight-straight victories for the Flames. The Mineral Wells W.Va., native owns 74 career wins in his career.
Aaron Thompson and Chris Penny squared off at 197 pounds. The Hokies' Penny jumped to a 6-2 lead through one period, and never looked back on his way to earning another major decision for Virginia Tech.
In the final bout of the evening, Josh Pelletier looked to score another victory for the Flames from a redshirt senior. It wouldn't work out for the Charleston, Maine native, however, as David Maroney built a 5-1 lead through two periods and held on for the 7-3 decision. The win put the final tally at 34-7.
The Flames' seven points in the match are the most the Hokies have given up in their last four duals.
Liberty returns to action next Tuesday, facing Appalachian State in its final home contest of the regular season. The dual meet is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Vines Center.