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Wrestling Set to Open Year against Bulldogs

November 10, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Aaron Kelley and the Flames host NCAA East Regional foe Gardner-Webb in a season-opening dual, Tuesday evening, at the Vines Center.

Aaron Kelley and the Flames host NCAA East Regional foe Gardner-Webb in a season-opening dual, Tuesday evening, at the Vines Center.

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The Flames football program isn't the only team ready to host Gardner-Webb this week, as the wrestling program is set to open up its 2008-09 schedule, tomorrow night, at the Vines Center in a 7 p.m. dual match-up.

Liberty, fresh off its second straight NCAA East Regional title, will open the year against one of its East Regional foes, when they take to the mats against the Bulldogs.

The last time the two teams met, the Flames captured the 2008 NCAA East Regional team title, finishing 41 points ahead of the Bulldogs inside the Vines Center on Mach 9. Liberty had six grapplers capture individual weight class championships and tickets to the NCAA National Championship, to Gardner-Webb's one weight class victor.

The Flames and the Bulldogs met twice last year, when five of the six NCAA East Regional programs came together for a preview tune-up at the NCAA East Regional Duals in Millersville, Pa., on Feb. 3.

Liberty finished the event with a perfect 4-0 record to capture the team title, thanks in part to a 34-6 dual match-up victory over Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs took decisions at 125 and 133 pounds, but the Flames reeled off eight straight weight class victories to claim victory.

The Flames' probable starting line-up features six returners from last year's 11-12-1 squad, including four NCAA national qualifiers.

Liberty will be led Christian Smith (133 pounds) and Tim Harner (141 pounds), who both took repeat trips to the NCAA National Championship last year. Harner, who enters the match ranked, No. 17 nationally by the NWCA at 141 pounds, will be wrestling up a weight class for the first time this year at 149 pounds.

Aaron Kelley (174 pounds) and Chris Daggett (184 pounds) both punched their tickets to St. Louis last year, when the pair captured their first career NCAA East Regional individual titles.

New to the mats this year for the Flames will be Joe Pantaleo (125 pounds) and Brad Clark (165 pounds). Pantaleo is a two-time state champion out of Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, Va., where he posted a 167-36 career record (82.3 winning percentage).

Clark wrestled unattached at Liberty last year and comes from Methacton High School in Audubon, Pa. He placed three times at the PIAA state championship, finishing his career with a 123-32 overall record (79.9 winning percentage).

Garder-Webb will be looking for some upperclassmen leadership from Cortney Roberts (125 pounds) Rob Tate (141 pounds) and Dustin Porter (heavyweight), as all three enter the season as redshirt juniors.

Roberts battled injuries most of last year and redshirted, but was the runner-up to Liberty's Smith at the 2006 NCAA East Regional in 2006 to finish the year with 12 wins and 24 takedowns.

Tate, a 2006 NCAA East Regional champion, finished last year with a 25-5 overall record, as he led the team with 51 takedowns and 27 near falls. As a freshman, Tate won an 8-1 decision over former Flame Sam Walters to earn a trip the NCAA National Championship. The junior will be wrestling up a weight class this year at 141 pounds.

Porter is a two-time NCAA East Regional title holder, with both postseason berths coming at 197 pounds. Porter joins Tate as Bulldogs who are wrestling up a weight class, after finishing last year with a 28-11 record, including a 15-6 mark in dual matches.

For the second straight year, LibertyFlames.com will be providing Live Stats for its home dual matches. Following each round, the web site will update its Live Stats page, providing fans who are unable to attend the match with in-match updates, as the Flames grapple with the visiting Bulldogs.

Tomorrow's dual will be one of three opportunities that Flames wrestling fans will have a chance to see Liberty take to the mats this year. Liberty will not return to Lynchburg until they close out their 2008-09 regular season schedule by hosting VMI (Feb. 19) and Appalachian State (Feb. 23).

Dual Match-Up Probable Line-Up:
125 – Joe Pantaleo vs. Cortney Roberts
133 – Christian Smith vs. Kyle Baird
141 – Frankie Gayeski vs. Rob Tate
149 – Tim Harner vs. Austin Reece
157 – Julian Colon vs. Justin Guthrie
165 – Brad Clark or Shaun Smith vs. Dave Sweeney
174 – Aaron Kelley or Nick Knowles vs. Jonathan Velazquez
184 – Chris Daggett vs. Blake Salyer
197 – Jacobi Johnson vs. Matthias Piasecki
HWT – Josh Pelletier vs. Dustin Porter
Note: Probable line-up is list as Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb wrestler.