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Flames Repeat as NCAA East Regional Champions

March 9, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Liberty's 2008 NCAA East Regional Championship squad, winners of back-to-back East regional titles.

Liberty's 2008 NCAA East Regional Championship squad, winners of back-to-back East regional titles.

For the second year in a row, Liberty has claimed the team title at the NCAA East Regional Wrestling Championship, winning six weight class titles along the way to a dominating performance, Sunday afternoon, inside the Vines Center.

Liberty finished 41 points ahead of second-place finisher Gardner-Webb, as the Flames posted 108.5 team points to the Bulldogs' 67.5 points. The top five in the standings remained completely unchanged from last year, when Liberty claimed a 17.5-point victory over Gardner-Webb during the event which was hosted at Duquesne on March 4, 2007.

Also for the second year, head coach Jesse Castro was tabbed the NCAA East Regional Coach of the Year, leading six grapplers to the NCAA National Championship in the first-ever NCAA championship event hosted by Liberty. Delaware State's Matt Cathell (149 pounds) was named the event's Most Outstanding Wrestler, posting a major decision victory and a win by fall (4:04) during the title bout.

Liberty's repeat weight class champions included Christian Smith (133 pounds), Tim Harner (141 pounds), Chad Porter (165 pounds) and Patrick Walker (285 pounds). The foursome will be joined on the road trip to St. Louis, Mo., by the pair of Aaron Kelley (174 pounds) and Chris Daggett (184 pounds), who were also victorious on the day.

Smith's road to victory at 133 pounds, included a technical fall victory over Nicholas Boghos of Wagner (22-4, 5:00) and a 10-2 major decision over Kevin Chapman of Duquesne in the finals.

Harner claimed three different victims on the day, giving the junior his 30th victory of the year. The 141-pounder first took down Gardner-Webb's Charles Franz by fall (2:25), followed by decisions over Duquesne's Jaky Cobbs (10-6) and Millersville's Mike Greck (4-1).

Porter followed suit with Smith, winning two matches en route to his second regional title at 165 pounds. The junior downed Brendan Couture of Gardner-Webb, 13-5, to reach the finals, where he got a third-period pin (6:24) over Delaware State's Brandon Gardner.

Kelley started his run to his first championship and ticket the NCAA national event with a technical fall victory over Wagner's Peter Morano (18-2, 5:55). The second-year grappler followed with a 16-5 major decision over Duquesne's Scott Blank, while capping off his run with a pin (6:28) over Millersville's Jeremy Brooks in the title bout.

Daggett started his day by pinning Wagner's Edward Broderick midway through the second (3:50), followed by consecutive major decisions. The first was an 11-2 victory over Matthias Piasecki of Gardner-Webb, followed by a 16-6 win over No. 2 seed Ryan Sula of Duquesne.

Liberty's final NCAA qualifier was the event's most heralded grappler, as Walker entered the tournament ranked No. 16 in the country among heavyweights. The sophomore got into the finals with a first-period pin of Wagner's John Graeffe (2:51), followed by a 6-0 blanking of Delaware State's Eric Sewell in the championship round.

With the individual championships on the afternoon, the Flames' six grapplers have now earned an invitation to the NCAA National Championship. The three-day event, which begins on March 20, will be contested at the Scottrade Center, where Missouri will serve as the official host.

Team Standings:
1. Liberty – 108.5 points
2. Gardner-Webb – 67.5 points
3. Duquesne – 63.5 points
4. Millersville – 62.5 points
5. Delaware State – 44.0 points
6. Wagner – 13.5 points

Individual Champions:
125 – Jonathan Bittinger (Duquesne)
133 – Christian Smith (Liberty)
141 – Tim Harner (Liberty)
149 – Matt Cathell (Delaware State)
157 – Jarrett Hostetter (Millersville)
165 – Chad Porter (Liberty)
174 – Aaron Kelley (Liberty)
184 – Chris Daggett (Liberty)
197 – Dustin Porter (Gardner-Webb)
HWT – Patrick Walker (Liberty)

NCAA East Regional Coach of the Year: Jesse Castro (Liberty)
NCAA East Regional Most Outstanding Wrestler: Matt Cathell (Delaware State)
NCAA East Regional Wild Card Winner: Edward McCray (Gardner-Webb)