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Virginia Duals Kicks Off Flames' Dual Season
Following four different tournament events, the Flames return to a full dual meet schedule for the remaining of the 2008-09 season, beginning this weekend with the Virginia Duals, hosted at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va.
The event, now in its 29th year of existence, will feature its strongest field ever, as seven of the 16 collegiate teams in the field are Top 25 ranked programs. No. 9 Lehigh, No. 12 Central Michigan and No. 13 Oklahoma State spotlight the elite collection.
A pair of in-state programs help round out the nationally ranked teams in the field, as No. 21 Old Dominion and No. 24 Virginia will be taking to the mats, along with No. 17 Edinboro and No. 23 Penn.
The Flames will open the two-day event on Friday against Central Michigan, the event's No. 3-seeded program. Liberty, who is 4-3 in dual events this season, is scheduled to grapple with the Chippewas on Mat 2 at 11 a.m., Friday morning.
Five of Central Michigan's 10 starters are nationally ranked, led by Steve Brown, who is currently ranked No. 8 at 149 pounds, and Scotti Sentes, who is rated No. 9 at 125 pounds.
This will be the Chippewas' second appearance at the Virginia Duals. Central Michigan, who has won 13 out of its last 14 dual meets, finished as the tournament runner-up in its only other appearance at the event during the 2000-01 season.
Liberty will also be making its second appearance at the Virginia Duals, after posting a 1-1 record two years ago. The Flames opened the event with a 38-6 setback to Old Dominion, before rebounding for a 24-21 dual victory over The Citadel.
The Flames opened the match-up against the Bulldogs with three straight victories, including a decision by Christian Smith at 125 pounds and a win by fall by Tim Harner at 141 pounds. Patrick Walker's 5-0 blanking at heavyweight secured the victory for Liberty, breaking the 21-all tie.
The trio of grapplers is scheduled to be back in action on the mats this weekend, looking to lead the Flames against the star-studded field. Smith leads the Flames in victories this year, having tallied a 14-9 mark at 133 pounds, including a 6-1 record in dual match-ups.
The senior's lone setback in a dual match-up was a hard-fought 4-2 decision loss to Matt Ortega, whose Indiana Hoosiers were ranked No. 18 when Liberty traveled to Bloomington, Ind., to participate in the Hoosier Duals on Nov. 29, the Flames' last dual event.
Harner enters the event as a probable starter at 141 pounds, a weight class he has only wrestled once at this year. The senior came into season ranked No. 17 in the weight division, but had been wrestling up at 149 pounds until Liberty's last event, when Harner posted a 3-2 mark at the Southern Scuffle to help the Flames finish 16th out of 31 teams.
Walker has seen limited action for the Flames at heavyweight this season, competing in just three events. However, in his last outing, the junior won three out of five bouts to finish fourth at the Nittany Lion Open, giving him a 5-3 mark on the year.
Two other grapplers will be looking to lead the Flames at this year's Virginia Duals, as Joe Pantaleo and Chris Daggett enter the event as two of Liberty's stronger competitors in 2008-09.
Pantaleo has posted an 11-6 record in his first collegiate season at 125 pounds, including a 6-1 record in dual match-ups. The freshman's lone loss in a dual bout came at the hands of the nation's No. 1 ranked wrestler in the weight class, in a 1-0 decision loss to Indiana's Angel Escobedo at the Hoosier Duals.
Daggett will be looking for a good showing to catapult himself back into the nation's Top 20 wrestlers at 184 pounds. The senior won 10 of his first 14 bouts of the year, which allowed him to retain his national ranking since the preseason.
However, losing a combined five out of seven matches at the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Southern Scuffle has left the Parkersburg, W.Va., native out of the nation's Top 20 for the first time this season. As a result, Daggett is hungry to return to the mats and improve on his 12-9 mark during his final season at Liberty.
The victor in the Liberty/Central Michigan match-up will face the winner in the Old Dominion/Northern Colorado dual, at 3 p.m. on Mat 3. The losers will square off in an elimination bout at the same time on Mat 2.
Liberty fans not able to make the trek across the Commonwealth to Hampton, Va., can follow the entire event live, as www.VirginiaDuals.org, the event's official web site, will be providing live scoring throughout the two-day tournament.
Liberty's Probable Starters (Season Record)
125 - Joe Pantaleo (11-6)
133 - Christian Smith (14-9)
141 - Tim Harner (10-7)
149 - Frankie Gayeski (6-12)
157 - Julian Colon (7-6)
165 - Brad Clark (9-9)
174 - Aaron Kelley (8-10)
184 - Chris Daggett (12-9)
197 - Brandon Johnson (4-11)
285 - Patrick Walker (5-3)