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Flames Claim Team Title at NCAA East Regional; Liberty to Send Four Wrestlers to NCAA National Championship
Liberty, who is wrestling for the first time since 1994 after reinstating the program this year, placed first out of five teams with 86 team points at the regional championship.
Gardner-Webb placed second with 68.5 points, followed by host Duquesne and Millersville who tied for third with 62.5 points each. Delaware State rounded out the team competition with nine team points for fifth place.
Four Liberty wrestlers won their individual weight classes as Christian Smith (125 pounds), Tim Harner (141 pounds), Chad Porter (165 pounds) and Patrick Walker (heavyweight) were individual champions, each earning an automatic berth to the NCAA National Championship.
Smith was named Co-Most Outstanding Wrestler along with Duquesne's Cody Midlam and Flames' head coach Jesse Castro was named the NCAA East Regional Coach of the Year.
Smith was 2-0 on the day, defeating Brett Skonieczny of Duquesne in an 8-2 decision in the semifinals, followed by a win by fall (1:10) over Courtney Roberts of Gardner-Webb in the title round.
Sam Walters at 133 pounds won his first match in a 3-2 decision over Duquesne's Brad Cipriani, before losing an 8-1 decision to Gardner-Webb's Rob Tate in the championship round.
Harner started his title run with a win by fall (4:42) over Millersville's Rickie Via in the semifinals before a 5-0, shutout decision over Gardner-Webb's Chas Franz in the championship bout.
At 149 pounds, Aaron Kelley advanced to the title round with a win by fall (4:55) over Duquesne's Brandon Baldini, before losing a narrow, 6-5 decision to Millersville's Cody Becker in the championship bout.
Shaun Smith at 157 pounds dropped a 6-0 decision to Duquesne's Cody Midlam to start off the day, but advanced to the "True Second" place bout after a 5-2 decision win over Gardner-Webb's Brendan Couture where he lost by decision, 4-1, to Millersville's Jarrett Hostetler.
Porter used a pair of major decisions en route to his championship win, including an 8-0 victory over Millersville's Derrick Evans in the semifinals and a 16-4 triumph over Gardner-Webb's Matthias Piasecki in the title bout.
Joseph Son at 174 pounds lost both of his matches on the day. Son opened with a 6-4 decision loss to eventual weight class champion John Heleniak and followed with a 6-0 setback to Gardner-Webb's Chad Davis.
At 184 pounds, Chris Daggett advanced to the championship round with a 6-4 overtime win by decision against Gardner-Webb's Brandon Beach, before losing by fall (5:32) to Duquesne's Jared Ricotta.
Rory Bosek at 197 pounds opened the day with a 4-3 win by decision over Delaware State's Shawn Nowrey, before losing to Gardner-Webb's Dustin Porter by fall (2:02) and Millersville's Keith McDonald by major decision, 10-2.
Rounding out the day's event was Walker at heavyweight, who received a bye into the championship round, where he made quick work of Duquesne's Joe D'Orsie with a win by fall (1:23) to claim the weight class title.
With their weight class victories on the day, Harner, Porter, Smith and Walker each advance to the NCAA National Championship hosted by Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on March 15-17.