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Flames Finish Home Slate Undefeated At Home With 30-13 Victory Over VMI
With the victory, the Flames raise their dual match record to 16-7 in their first season back in action since 1994 as the program was reinstated after a 12-year hiatus. The loss drops the Keydets dual record to 5-7 on the year.
The night was a special evening for all as the Founders' Circle was honored before the match. The group played an instrumental part in the return of wrestling to Liberty and several donors to the cause were recognized for their financial support in helping bring back a program which excelled for 20 seasons.
From 1974-94, the wrestling program was one of the premier athletics programs at Liberty as the Flames' grapplers excelled at all levels. Liberty won five-straight NCCAA national championships (1977-81) and was one of the first athletics teams to compete at the NCAA Division I level.
In total, the Flames finished a 20-year span of wrestling with a cumulative 180-101-6 record and had 42 athletes earn All-America honors at various levels, including 22 NCCAA All-Americans, four NAIA All-Americans and 16 NCAA Division II All-Americans.
Following the pre-match presentation, the excitement continued for the Flames on the mats as well as Christian Smith opened up with a 13-8 decision over Jonathan Page at 125 pounds.
Sam Walters kept things going for Liberty with the first of two-consecutive first-period pins as Walters pinned Lance Long (1:35) at 133 pounds. Tim Harner tied for team-high honors on the year by picking up his 12th win by fall at 2:05 over Brandon Franklin at 141 pounds, giving Liberty a 15-0 lead.
VMI finally found its way onto the scoreboard as Sam Alvarenga scored four of his seven points in the first and took advantage of some riding time to pick up a 7-4 decision over Aaron Kelley at 149 pounds.
Shaun Smith gained control of the match at 157 pounds early, leading 4-1 after the first and then ended the match in the second, picking up Liberty third and final win by fall (5:26) over Vince Cole.
The Keydets were unable to field a competitor at 165 pounds, giving Liberty's Chad Porter the win by forfeit and the Flames a sizeable 27-3 edge.
VMI attempted to get back into the match by winning the next three weight classes, starting with a 12-9 decision win in favor of John Burton over Joseph Son at 174 pounds.
Corry Murrary kept things going for the Keydets at 184 pounds, picking up an 11-2 major decision win over Chris Daggett, while Kyle Elgert used three points late in the match to hold off Rory Bosek at 197 pounds for a 6-2 decision, narrowing the margin to 14, 27-13.
However, Patrick Walker closed out the night by thrilling the crowd of 892 as a two-point takedown with 50 second left in the match, enabled him to gain a hard-fought 3-1 decision over Leon Barrow at heavyweight and end the evening's match.
Three Flames extended personal winning streaks on the evening as Harner's fall gave him his 11th-straight win. Walker's 3-1 decision pushed his personal winning streak to nine straight, while Smith's match-opening 13-8 victory gave the junior his seventh-consecutive victory.
The Flames will close out their regular-season schedule next Wednesday when they travel to Greensboro, N.C., to squad off against the Spartans of UNC Greensboro. Match time is set for 7 p.m.
Liberty 30, VMI 13
125 – Christian Smith (LU) dec. Jonathan Pope (VMI), 13-8 – LU 3-0
133 – Sam Walters (LU) fall Lance Long (VMI), 1:35 – LU 9-0
141 – Tim Harner (LU) fall Brandon Franklin (VMI), 2:05 – LU 15-0
149 – Sam Alvarenga (VMI) dec. Aaron Kelley (LU), 7-4 – LU 15-3
157 – Shaun Smith (LU) fall Vince Cole (VMI), 5:26 – LU 21-3
165 – Chad Porter (LU) wins by forfeit – LU 27-3
174 – John Burton (VMI) dec. Joseph Son (LU), 12-9 – LU, 27-6
184 – Corry Murray (VMI) major dec. Chris Daggett (LU), 11-2 – LU 27-10
197 – Kyle Elgert (VMI) dec. Rory Bosek (LU), 6-2 – LU 27-13
HWT – Patrick Walker (LU) dec. Leon Barrow (VMI), 3-1 – LU 30-13