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Flames Control Dual from Start in Win
Liberty, the two-time NCAA East Regional champions, opened defense of their team regional title with a victory to start the year, 1-0. The loss gives the Bulldogs a 0-1 dual record.
The Flames sent their most experienced wrestler to the mats to begin the dual, as Tim Harner opened the match against Austin Reece. The country's No. 17 ranked grappler at 141 pounds opened his first match of the year wrestling up at 149 pounds by scoring a two-point takedown 20 seconds in.
After three minutes of action, Harner controlled the match with a 9-0 lead. The senior continued his nine-point lead, 12-3, following the second period, and after a takedown and three near-fall points to open third, Harner ended the bout with 38 seconds left in the match, scoring a 19-4 technical fall win.
The Flames quickly pushed their dual match lead to 11-0, when Julian Colon pinned Justin Guthrie to the mat at the 2:35 mark of the first period for the victory at 157 pounds.
Brad Clark, wrestling in his first match for the Flames, pushed Liberty's overall advantage to 15-0 with the Flames' second win by technical fall over Dave Sweeney at 165 pounds. After a near stalemate during the opening three minutes, Clark picked up a two-point takedown with 24 ticks left on the clock.
The junior quickly extended his lead in the second with a quick reversal after opening in the down position, followed by two sets of near fall points to give him a 10-0 lead. After getting his second takedown in the match to open the third, Clark ended the match-up with three near fall points, securing the 15-0 technical fall win at the 6:41 point of the bout.
Aaron Kelley, fresh off his first trip to the NCAA National Championship last season, controlled his match-up with Jonathon Velazaquez from the opening whistle. After scoring a quick two-point takedown, Kelley picked up five sets of near fall points to end the bout at the 2:42 mark with a 16-0 technical fall victory to extend Liberty's overall margin to 21-0.
Consecutive falls by Liberty pushed the Flames lead to 33-0, beginning with No. 19 Chris Daggett's pin of Blake Salyer at the 1:34 mark of the first period at 184 pounds.
Brandon Johnson and Mattias Piasecki followed at 197 pounds, in a match that had Johnson leading 4-2 after the first three minutes, thanks to a pair of takedowns. An early escape by Piasecki pulled the red-shirt senior within a point; however, Johnson took control of the bout shortly thereafter with a takedown which led a pin at 4:31.
The Bulldogs finally were able to put points on the scoreboard at heavyweight. Dustin Porter took a 5-0 decision from Josh Pelletier. Porter, who finished last year with a 28-11 record, scored late takedowns in the first and third periods, coupled with 2:23 of riding time to post the Bulldogs' first victory on the evening.
Moving back to 125 pounds, Joe Pantaleo opened his collegiate wrestling career in style with a win by fall over Cortney Roberts to give the Flames a 39-3 overall edge.
Following a low-scoring 2-1 first period, Pantaleo pushed his advantage to 4-1 with an escape in the opening second of the middle period. Roberts booked his second escape of the bout to pull within two, 4-2, but the three-time high school state champion ended the match with a fall at the 4:31 mark of the match-up.
Christian Smith followed with a controlling 9-0 major decision victory over Kyle Baird at 133 pounds. Smith, a three-time NCAA national qualifier, took Baird down early and finished with 2:41 minutes of riding time in the first period.
The senior added four points in the second with a takedown after opening the period neutral, while adding two more near fall points to close the middle. A third takedown in the final period coupled with 5:21 minutes of total riding time gave Smith the convincing victory.
The Bulldogs closed the match by sending their most seasoned grappler to the center circle. Rob Tate, who posted a 25-5 record last year, was pitted against Frankie Gayeski to close the dual in the wrestler's first match as a Flames since transferring from Lehigh.
Gayeski opened the low-scoring bout with a first period takedown. The experience Tate netted an escape in the second and picked up a point when Gayeski was called for stalling in the third, sending the match into an extra period.
However, Tate didn't need long to record the victory, taking Gayeski down seven seconds into overtime, scoring the two-point sudden victory win to give the Bulldogs their second bout win on the evening.
The Flames will continue dual match action this weekend when they travel to Charleston, S.C., for a pair of trips to the wrestling mat. Liberty will face The Citadel and Limestone, Saturday morning, beginning at 11 a.m., inside McAlister Field House.
Liberty 43, Gardner-Webb 6
125 – Joe Pantaleo (LU) fall Cortney Roberts (GWU), 4:31 – LU 39-3
133 – Christian Smith (LU) major dec. Kyle Baird (GWU), 9-0 – LU 43-3
141 – Rob Tate (GWU) dec. Frankie Gayeski (LU), 4-2 (SV) – LU 43-6
* 149 – No. 17 Tim Harner (LU) tech. fall Austin Reece (GWU), 19-4 (6:22) – LU 5-0
157 – Julian Colon (LU) fall Justin Guthrie (GWU), 2:35 – LU 11-0
165 – Brad Clark (LU) tech. fall Dave Sweeney (GWU), 15-0 (6:41) – LU 15-0
174 – Aaron Kelley (LU) tech. fall Jonathon Velazquez (GWU), 16-0 (2:42) – LU 21-0
184 – No. 19 Chris Daggett (LU) fall Blake Salyer (GWU), 1:34 – LU 27-0
197 – Brandon Johnson (LU) fall Matthias Piasecki (GWU), 4:59 – LU 33-0
HWT – Dustin Porter (GWU) dec. Josh Pelletier (LU), 5-0 – LU – 33-0
* - Starting weight class