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Freshmen Lead Flames to Victory over ASU

February 22, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The official gets the best angle as the Flames' Royal Brettrager II pins his Appalachian State opponent on Tuesday evening in Liberty's 25-17 win.

Liberty freshmen Robert Jillard and Royal Brettrager II each won by fall on Tuesday evening, leading the Flames to a 25-17 victory over Appalachian State in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Flames close the 2010-11 season with a 14-7 dual meet record, winning eight of their last nine matches. The 14 wins by the program is the most since the 2006-07 season when Liberty went 16-8 in its first year back in competition after a 12-year hiatus from action.

With the victory, Liberty notched its third straight over the Mountaineers. Head coach Jesse Castro's squad now has its eyes on its fifth-consecutive NCAA East Regional title, as they have finished the year strong. Meanwhile, Appalachian State closes its campaign with an 8-11-1 record and looks towards its Southern Conference tournament.

Jillard gave the Flames a fast start at 125 pounds, pinning the Mountaineers' Tony Gravely, who is the defending Southern Conference champion. Jillard held a 4-3 lead after one period. He then finished the bout in the second, as he used a reversal to get Gravely on his back. Jillard stuck the Mountaineer grappler at the 4:39 mark of the bout to give the Flames a 6-0 lead.

Speaking on Jillard's win, Castro said, "I think they expected that one, but we liked that match up. We liked Jillard's style against [Gravely] and Jillard pulled off a big one."

T. J. Mitchell extended the lead for the Flames with a major decision over Brett Boston, 12-4. Mitchell took a 4-2 edge into the final period, starting in the down position. After escaping quickly, Mitchell scored a takedown. Seeking the major decision, Mitchell cut Boston loose twice within the final minute of the bout. A takedown in the final seconds, paired with 2:13 of riding time pushed the final score to 12-4 and the Flames' lead to 10-0.

"He's been consistent, he's been in there battling and scoring points. That was a big win for us," commented Castro on Mitchell's performance at 133 pounds.

The visiting Mountaineers countered in the following bouts, scoring 10 points with the same combination of results that Liberty opened with. After a win by fall from Mike Kessler (2:28) at 141 pounds and a major decision from Savva Kostis at 149 pounds, the dual score stood at ten all.

Julian Colon gained the lead back for Liberty after an 8-2 decision at 157 pounds. The redshirt junior used five points in the second period to earn a 7-1 edge through five minutes of action. Colon rode out John Blakely for the majority of the final period. Three minutes and forty seconds of riding time added to Colon's final tally to put Liberty back ahead, 13-10.

At 165 pounds, the Mountaineers' No. 18 ranked Kyle Blevins and the Flames' Chad Porter faced off in a competitive matchup. Blevins held a 2-0 lead entering the final frame, and escaped to go up 3-0. After multiple struggles for control, Blevins found himself with another takedown to seal a 6-0 decision and knot the match at 13-13 again.

Royal Brettrager II made a successful return to the mat for the Flames at 174 pounds, earning his fifth win by fall for his freshman campaign. Brettrager had been out of the lineup since the Flames' 24-16 win at UNC Greensboro on Feb. 2, where he suffered a shoulder injury.

Despite Carter Downs having hold of Brettrager's leg in the opening period, the Kirtland, Ohio, native made several defensive moves which led to his own takedown. In the second period, Brettrager scored two reversals, with the second leading into the pin of his opponent (3:35). Brettrager's win brought the Flames to 19 points, and a six-point advantage.

Castro also commented on the Flames' other freshman, stating, "I can't say enough about Royal. Every time he steps on the mat, you know that he's going to give you everything he has. That was a good opportunity for him to be big for the team, and he did that coming off of an injury."

The Mountaineers second ranked grappler, No. 19 Austin Trotman, pulled Appalachian State within two, 19-17, after earning a 17-5 major decision over the Flames' Aaron Kelley at 184 pounds. Kelley's defeat snapped his personal eight-bout win streak.

Aaron Thompson extended Liberty's lead in the 197-pound bout, picking up a 7-3 decision. The Vinton, Va., native used a takedown in the first and second periods to take a 5-2 lead into the final two minutes of action. The Mountaineers' John Hartley escaped to open the last period, but Thompson would defend Hartley throughout the remainder of the period. Thompson then finished the bout with another takedown to seal his own victory and give Liberty a five-point advantage.

Redshirt senior Josh Pelletier then tacked on the final team points for Liberty, taking a 5-3 decision over Marc Tyson. After a scoreless opening period, the two found themselves knotted at two periods. In the last two minutes of action, Pelletier scored an escape as well as a takedown to secure his win. With the victory, the Charleston, Maine, native sets a new career high for wins in a season with 16.

With the regular season wrapped up, the Flames now wait for the NCAA East Regional Championships, which takes place on March 6 in the Vines Center. The tournament, whose winners will qualify for the NCAA Championships, also involves Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Millersville and Sacred Heart. Action is slated to begin at 2:30 p.m.