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UNCG Holds On to Early Lead for Win over LU
The win gives UNC Greensboro consecutive dual victories for the first time this year, as the Spartans soundly defeated SoCon foe Davidson, 34-3, last week and now boast a 4-9 dual match record.
Earlier in the day, the Flames reeled off seven straight weight class victories en route to a 27-12 victory over Campbell at John W. Pope, Jr., Convocation Center, 90 miles east of Greensboro in Buies Creek, N.C. The 1-1 split on the day leaves Liberty's record at 6-8-1.
The Flames continued to use momentum gained from their earlier victory over the Camels, jumping out to a 4-0 lead after the first bout. Aaron Kelley opened the match with a convincing 12-1 major decision over Brett Miller at 174 pounds.
However, the homestanding Spartans quickly answered back with a major victory of their own. Mikal McKee picked up his 26th triumph of the year with a 13-5 major decision over Chris Daggett, knotting the match at 4-4.
Jeremy Cannon was able to even his dual match record on the season at 3-3 with a 3-0 blanking over Brandon Johnson at 197 pounds, pushing UNC Greensboro into the lead for good at 7-4.
Wrestling for the first time in his collegiate career at heavyweight, Andrew Wilson was only able to net an escape point in his bout with Joe Sheffield, as the Spartans' redshirt senior claimed his ninth dual victory of the year in a 5-1 decision.
The squads traded six-point forfeits in the following two weight matchups. UNC Greensboro's Mitchell Johnson went uncontested at 125 pounds, while Christian Smith picked up a forfeit win at 133 pounds for the Flames to pull Liberty within six points in the dual, 16-10.
The 141-pound bout pitted the two teams' best grapplers against each other, and the matchup certainly lived up to its billing as it ended in a 2-1 decision. Chris Bencivenga scored an early first-period takedown, followed by Tim Harner pulling within one with a second-period escape.
However, Liberty's senior couldn't notch another mark on the scoreboard in the third, giving Bencivenga his 24th victory of the year and upping his mark to 10-2 in dual bouts. The setback ended Harner's season-long seven-match winning streak.
Frankie Gayeski tried to keep the Flames in the overall dual, recording his second victory of the day. This time around, Liberty's 149-pounder blanked Ben Wilmore, 6-0, allowing Liberty to remain within striking distance, 19-13.
Andrew Saunders answered the call for the Spartans, picking up a 7-3 decision over Shaun Smith at 157 pounds to seal the overall victory for UNC Greensboro.
In the dual's final matchup, Liberty's Brad Clark and UNC Greensboro Victor Hojilla seemed destined for an overtime period, as the bout was deadlocked at 3-3. But a move by the homestanding grappler with two ticks left on the clock allowed the junior to steal a 5-3 win on the two-point takedown.
The Flames will have the next few days off to train for one of their most important regular-season events of the year. On Saturday, Liberty will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., to participate in the Eastern Regional Duals, hosted by Duquesne.
The one-day event will serve as a precursor to the NCAA East Regionals on March 7, where 10 weight class victors will earn their way to the NCAA National Championships.
At last year's Eastern Regional Duals, the Flames went undefeated on the day, posting a perfect 4-0 record to capture the team title.