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Despite Walker's Victory, Liberty Wrestling Season Ends at National Championships
Walker (Fr., Newark, Del.) won one of his three Thursday matches. He took his opening round bout with Drexel's Chris Cowen to overtime before dropping a 6-4 decision.
In his first consolation match-up, Walker defeated Nathan Thobaben of Army by fall at the 4:23 mark. It was the 11th victory by fall this season for the Flame freshman.
Walker's pin earned him a contest with No. 10 seed Cody Parker of Cal Poly late in the evening. Parker had previously defeated Walker by fall at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 20. Unfortunately for the Flame, Parker was able to pin him once again, 1:48 into their match-up to eliminate Walker from the National Championships. The heavyweight wraps up his year with a 29-8 record.
Harner (So., Norristown, Pa.) went 0-2 in his Thursday bouts at the 141-pound weight class, including a loss to Oklahoma's Kyle Terry in the first round. Terry of the Big 12 Conference earned a 5-2 decision over Harner, relegating the Liberty sophomore to the wrestlebacks.
C.J. Ettleson of Northern Iowa took Harner down hard during the first period of the consolation match. Harner sustained an injury during the move and ended up losing by fall at the 2:51 mark. So, Ettleson advanced on in the bracket and Harner finished the year with a 37-14 ledger.
Porter (Fr., Parkersburg, W.Va.) entered the national meet as Liberty's hottest wrestler, having won his last 11 bouts in a row at 165. The freshman's first-round opponent, Daniel Atondo of Bakersfield, was a familiar foe. Porter had dealt the Pac-10 qualifier an 11-5 setback at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 20 and got off to a nice start in Thursday's match-up. Porter took a 4-1 lead before Atondo bounced back to claim a 10-5 decision.
Porter's opponent in the initial consolation round also hailed from California. Dustin Noack of UC-Davis knocked Porter out of the competition by a 7-2 score. Porter wraps up a successful rookie campaign with a 33-13 record.
Smith (Jr., Suffolk, Va.) dropped both of his matches on Thursday and was eliminated from the 125-pound competition. He opened up against No. 2 seed and defending national runner-up, Troy Nickerson of Cornell. Smith jumped out to a quick, 2-0 advantage versus Nickerson with an early takedown. However, Nickerson came back to pin the junior, 2:39 into the match.
In the consolation bracket, Smith met Oregon State's Eric Stevenson. Stevenson led the entire way and came out on top of a 9-1 major decision. Smith finishes his initial season with the Flames at 26-12.
Thursday's action concluded a successful return to wrestling for the Liberty Flames. After a 12-year hiatus from competition, head coach Jesse Castro's squad went 16-8 in dual meet action, including a 5-0 mark at home. The Flames also captured an East Regional team title and sent a program-best four wrestlers to the national meet.