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Six Ready for NCAA Wrestling Championship

March 19, 2008
|  St. Louis, Mo.
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Patrick Walker, ranked No. 16 nationally at heavyweight, will be one of six Liberty wrestlers in action beginning tomorrow in St. Louis at the NCAA National Wrestling Championship.

Patrick Walker, ranked No. 16 nationally at heavyweight, will be one of six Liberty wrestlers in action beginning tomorrow in St. Louis at the NCAA National Wrestling Championship.

NCAA National Wrestling Championship Notes

NCAA National Wrestling Championship - Live Stats

Before even arriving in St. Louis, Mo., for this year's NCAA National Wrestling Championship, Liberty has spent a considerable amount of time with one of the best programs in the nation.

Following numerous plane flight delays out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport due to inclement weather in the area, the Flames paired up with Michigan, the nation's No. 3 ranked program, to rent a charter bus to travel the remaining 300 miles south to the "Gateway City", the site of this year's national championship.

But the "partnership" between the two programs will end tomorrow morning when the opening whistle sounds inside the Scottrade Center, this year's host for the national championship event. The tournament begins tomorrow and continues until a national champion is crowned on Saturday.

For the second year in a row, Liberty sends a good contingents of Flames, as Liberty will have six grapplers vying for a national title at the championship event.

The Flames will send four repeat wrestlers to the year-ending event, as Christian Smith (133 pounds), Tim Harner (141 pounds), Chad Porter (165 pounds) and Patrick Walker (285 pounds) return for a second go around at the national scene.

The quartet of wrestlers helped Liberty claim its first NCAA East Regional Championship last year in Pittsburgh, Pa.

This year, Liberty hosted its first-ever NCAA Championship event on March 9 and two others joined the foursome, as Aaron Kelley (174 pounds) and Chris Daggett (184 pounds) also punched their tickets to St. Louis with individual championships. The group of six wrestlers helped the Flames capture the team title for a second-straight year in front of their hometown fans inside the Vines Center.

For those unable to make the journey to the nation's heartland, television coverage will begin on Friday as ESPNU/ESPN360.com will air the quarterfinals live at 11 a.m. (EST).

Additionally, ESPNU will be producing and syndicating live coverage of the semifinals beginning at 7 p.m. (EST) that same day. On Saturday morning, ESPNU will carry the medal rounds live at 11 a.m. (EST). ESPN/ESPN360.com will air the championships live later that evening at 8:30 p.m. (EST).

A Brief Look at the Flames' History:
• The 2007-08 season marks the second year of competition for the wrestling program since 1994.
• Liberty finished the 2006-07 season with a 16-8 dual meet record, while claiming the title at the 2007 NCAA East Regional Championships.
• Liberty sent four wrestlers to the NCAA National Championship in 2007 – Christian Smith (125 pounds), Tim Harner (141 pounds), Chad Porter (165 pounds) and Patrick Walker (285 pounds).
• Program was disbanded in 1994 after 20 years of competition due to University financial constraints.
• Program posted a combined 179-99-5 dual match record from 1975 to 1994, moving from the NCCAA level up to NCAA Division I competition in 1988.
• Liberty claimed five NCCAA national championships (1976-80).
• Posted a 45-55-2 record at the NCAA Division I level before program was disbanded.
• Liberty sent two individuals to the NCAA National Championship in 1994, with Aaron Bruce posting a 1-2 record at the event and Denny Orr finishing the event 0-2.

A Brief Look at this Season:
• Liberty posted an 11-12-1 dual match record.
• The Flames posted a 4-2-1 record at home this year, including an 18-18 tie with 2007 ACC champion N.C. State.
• For the first time in Liberty's athletics department history, the University hosted an NCAA Championship event, when Liberty hosted the 2008 NCAA East Regional Wrestling Championship on March 9.
• For the second year in a row, Liberty claimed the title at the NCAA East Regional with 108.5 points.
• Head coach Jesse Castro was named the NCAA East Regional Coach of the Year for the second-consecutive season.
• Liberty's victory at the NCAA East Regional Wrestling Championship continued a run of success during the 2007-08 athletic season, as the Flames claimed team championships in seven different sports since the beginning of the year (volleyball, men's soccer, football, men's cross country, women's cross country, men's indoor track and field, wresting and women's basketball).
• Liberty has had much success at the national level this year with Josh McDougal claiming the national championship at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, while the men's soccer, women's basketball and volleyball teams all advanced to various NCAA Tournaments.
• Liberty's six individuals at this year's NCAA National Wrestling Championship marks the most individuals Liberty has sent to the national event in the program's history.

Team Tournament Finishes:
• Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Tournament (11/10) – Seventh out of nine teams (70.9 points)
• Navy Classic (11/17) – Fifth out of 12 teams (80.5 points)
• Spartan Invitational (12/1) – Third out of 11 teams (59.0 points)
• Reno Tournament of Champions (12/18) – 19th out of 26 teams (16.5 points)
• Southern Scuffle (12/29-30) – 24th out of 29 teams (11.5 points)
• Midlands Championships (12/29-30) – 31st out of 52 teams (9.0 points)
• Virginia State Intercollegiates (1/5) – Third out of six teams (40.5 points)
• NCAA East Regional Championships (3/9) – First out of six teams (108.5 points)

Flames at a Glance
Christian Smith (133 pounds – Sr., 5-7, Suffolk, Va.)
2007-08 Record: 2-32 (includes 30 forfeited matches)
Career Record: 28-44
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
2007 – 0-2 (L/fall [2:39) – Cornell's Troy Nickerson, L/major decision [1-9] – Oregon State's Eric Stevenson)
• Was 16-14 before the NCAA declared him ineligible midway through the season.
• Wrestled last year at 125 pounds, including at the NCAA National Championship.

Tim Harner (141 pounds – Jr., 5-11, Norristown, Pa.)
2007-08 Record: 30-10
Career Record: 67-25
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
2007 – 0-2 (L/decision [2-5] – Oklahoma's Kyle Terry, L/fall [2:51] – Northern Iowa's C.J. Ettelson)
• Enters the NCAA National Championship riding a 13-match winning streak.
• Leads the team with 11 victories by fall on the year.

Chad Porter (165 pounds – So., 6-0, Washington, W.Va.)
2007-08 Record: 26-17
Career Record: 59-28
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
2007 – 0-2 (L/decision [5-10] – Bakersfield's Daniel Atondo, L/decision [2-7] – UC Davis' Dustin Noack)
• Leads the Flames with 11 victories by major decision, giving him 21 during his Liberty career.
• Has won nine out of his last 10 bouts coming into the NCAA National Championship.

Aaron Kelley (174 pounds – So., 5-11, Mineral Wells, W.Va.)
2007-08 Record: 28-17
Career Record: 48-37
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
None
• One of two Liberty grapplers making their first career appearance at the NCAA National Championships.
• Won his last six bouts to enter the NCAA National Championships, ranking him third on the team in victories.

Chris Daggett (184 pounds – Jr., 5-11, Williamsburg, W.Va.)
2007-08 Record: 12-15
Career Record: 24-27
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
None
• One of two Liberty grapplers making their first career appearance at the NCAA National Championships.
• Wrestled at three different weight classes during the year.

Patrick Walker (285 pounds – So., 6-3, Newark, Del.)
2007-08 Record: 31-9
Career Record: 60-17
Previous NCAA Championship Experience:
2007 – 1-2 (L/decision [4-6/sv] – Drexel's Chris Cowen, W/fall [4:23] – Army's Nathan Thobaden, L/fall [1:48] – Cal Poly's Cody Parker
• Enters the NCAA National Championship on a 14-match winning streak and ranked No. 16 nationally.
• Led the squad in total wins (31) and dual match victories (19).