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Liberty Grabs Fifth Place at Navy Classic
Last year, the Navy Classic served as the Flames' first tournament since reinstating the program. Liberty had three wrestlers place in the event, guiding the Flames to seventh place with 46 team points.
This time around, Liberty added two more grapplers to its group of student-athletes who placed, allowing the Flames to climb the team standings ladder to fifth place with 80.5 team points.
Bloomsburg claimed the team title on the afternoon with 161.5 points, after winning three individual weight classes. Host Navy followed closely behind with 140 points, thanks to three individual weight class titles, as well.
"After a lesser first round of the tournament, I felt the team progressively improved as the tournament went along," stated head wrestling coach Jesse Castro. "Placing five in this tournament is a huge improvement from last year's three placers.
"Chad Porter became the first Liberty wrestler to make it to the finals by winning three straight, avenging a 9-2 loss to Rick Schmelyun of Bloomsburg in the second round of last year's tournament. Our practice intensity needs to pick up, if we are going to continue to make improvement in a very difficult schedule."
Christian Smith was the first of the five Flames to place in the tournament at 133 pounds. After dropping an 11-5 decision to Navy's Joe Baker in the semifinals, the senior scratched out a 4-1 decision over Bloomsburg's Jason Guffey to capture fifth place.
Tim Harner followed Smith at 141 pounds, claiming fourth place in his weight class. The junior was quickly bumped to the consolation bracket, following a loss by fall in his opening bout of the day. But the 141-pounder responded with five-straight wins, before losing to Navy's Glen Shober in the third-place match-up.
Porter had a dominating run to the championship match-up at 165 pounds. After a 13-0 major decision over George Mason's Greg Scott to begin the day, the sophomore pinned back-to-back opponents, followed by a 3-1 decision win over Bloomsburg's Rickey Schmelyun.
The three-straight wins set up the top two seeded wrestlers in the bracket, where No. 1 seed Andrew Rendos of Bucknell was able to eek out a 6-5 narrow decision over Porter.
The Flames rounded out the event with a sixth-place finish by Aaron Kelley at 174 pounds and a fourth-place ranking by Patrick Walker at heavyweight.
Kelley's tournament run was highlighted by a 12-5 decision over Rutgers McPaul Ogbonna and a win by fall (2:06) over Bucknell's Jay Hahn. Walker blanked his first two opponents, 8-0 over Navy's Breaux and 12-0 over Rutgers over D.J. Russo, and was a 5-2 victor over Franklin and Marshall's Nico Sommers.
Following a brief Thanksgiving break, the Flames travel north to Bloomington, Ind., to participate in the Hoosier Duals, this Saturday.