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Trio Helps LU Finish 16th at Southern Scuffle
Liberty added 20.5 points to its team total on day two, helping the Flames finished the annual event with 32 points, just a half point behind host UNC Greensboro (32.5 points). Last year, the Flames finished the two-day event 24th out 29 teams with 11.5 points.
No. 3 Cornell came on strong in the second day's action to claim the team title with 139 points. No. 17 Edinboro finished second with 134 points, followed by Kent State in third place with 126 points.
The field of 31 teams included four Top 25 programs, plus three additional programs which received votes in the Dec. 23 USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I national rankings.
No. 19 Hofstra dropped in the standings during second day action, falling to eighth place with 80 points, while No. 24 Virginia finished just ahead of the Pride in seventh place with 88 points.
Seven of Liberty's grapplers remained a live coming into the day's action, with four wrestlers posting victories to assist the Flames 16th-place finish.
Smith shined the brightest for Liberty at 133 pounds, opening the day with a victory by fall over Lock Haven's Nikkien Fauntleroy in 55 seconds. The senior followed with a 9-0 major decision over Lock Haven's George Ester and a 5-3 decision win over Ohio's Quentin Keyes.
After dropping a 12-3 major decision to eventual fifth-place finisher Michael Rappo from North Carolina, Smith picked up a 5-3 decision win over Appalachian State's Frank Celorrio to place seventh in the event.
Harner, competing in his first tournament this year at 141 pounds, looked like he was going to make a prolonged run in the consolation bracket, as the senior opened the day with back-to-back wins by fall.
Harner started his run with a pin at 1:59 over Edinboro's Steve Waite, followed by a second win by fall 65 seconds into his bout with Edinboro's Joel Webster. However, the senior's tournament came to an end when eventual seventh-place finisher Corey Manson, from Cornell, defeated Harner with a 9-4 decision.
Gayeski began his morning at 149 pounds with consecutive decision victories. The Lehigh transfer started the day with a 7-3 decision over George Mason's Brandon Bucher, followed by a 3-2 victory over Old Dominion's Kaylen Baxter.
However, the Malaga, N.J., native's tournament stay came to an end by virtue of consecutive losses to eventual tournament place winners. The first came to fifth-place victor Pete Yates in a second-period pin (4:00), followed by a 10-2 major decision win by Edinboro's Torsten Gillespie in the seventh-place bout.
Liberty's lone other victor on the day was Brandon Johnson. The sophomore opened his day with a 15-6 major decision victory over Virginia Tech's Tim Miller, before bowing out of the event with a 6-3 decision loss to Lock Haven's Ben Hepburn.
The Flames will return to the wrestling mats after the New Year when Liberty travels to Virginia Beach, Va., to participate in the Virginia Duals on Jan. 9 and 10.