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Liberty Wrestlers Bested by Best at Reno
For the second-consecutive year, Central Michigan won the tournament with 152.5 team points, behind the strength of four weight class titles. Oklahoma State placed second with 128.0 team points, followed by Cornell's third-place effort with 99.0 team points.
The Flames finished with 16.5 team points to place 19th in the field of 26 programs. Last year, Liberty surprised the tournament field, placing 13th out of 29 teams with 39 team points.
Sean Katz was the first Liberty grappler to face a seeded wrestler, falling by major decision (18-4) in his first round match-up to No. 4 seed Ben Kjar of Utah Valley at 125 pounds.
Christian Smith put together a nice run to the quarterfinals of the championship bracket at 133 pounds. The senior opened with a 13-0 major decision win over Great Falls' Jason Harrington, followed by an 11-9 decision over Appalachian State's Terreyl Williams.
Smith then was pitted against No. 3 seed Filip Novachkov of Cal Poly, where he dropped a 4-1 decision to fall into the wrestleback bracket.
Sam Walters ran into two seeded wrestlers during his time at the tournament. The 149-pounder dropped a 2-0 decision to No. 3 seed Brandon Carter of Central Michigan, before falling by decision (5-3) to No. 4 seed Seth Ray of Southern Oregon in the wrestleback bracket.
Chad Porter continued the Liberty trend of squaring off against No. 3 seeded wrestlers, losing by fall (6:19) to Cornell's Mack Lewnes, who eventually went on to claim the tournament individual title at 165 pounds.
Aaron Kelley, who finished the day with a 3-2 overall record at 174 pounds, won his first two bouts of the day, starting with a 6-1 decision over Wyoming's Dan Barrone. Following a 24-11 major decision win over Oregon's Ron Lee, Kelley lost a 12-2 major decision to No. 4 seed Michael Kummer of Great Falls.
Nick Knowles was the lone Flame to square off against a bracket's top-seeded wrestler. Following a speedy fall (0:17) over Western Wyoming's Mike Hautala, Knowles was pinned (1:06) by Ian Murphy of Cal State Fullerton, the No. 1 seed of the 184-pound bracket.
Patrick Walker was the final wrestler to face a seeded competitor, losing his opening round match-up with No. 2 seed Wade Sauer of Cal State Fullerton, by decision (7-0). Sauer is currently ranked No. 4 nationally at heavyweight in the latest USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I Coaches poll.
Liberty's wrestling squad will take the next few days off for Christmas and will return to the wrestling mats on Dec. 29 and 30, in Greensboro, N.C., for the Southern Scuffle.