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LU Closes Out Home Slate with 24-18 Victory

February 23, 2009
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Christian Smith capped off his Liberty home career in style with a first period pin to help guide the Flames to a 24-18 victory over Appalachian State on Monday.

Christian Smith capped off his Liberty home career in style with a first period pin to help guide the Flames to a 24-18 victory over Appalachian State on Monday.

The visiting Mountaineers opened with two victories to start the evening, but the Flames won six of the last eight matches to close out their home schedule with a 24-18 victory over Appalachian State, Monday night, inside the Vines Center.

The victory, Liberty's sixth in a row, completes the Flames' dual match record on the year at 12-9-1, as the match-up served as both squad's final regular-season events. The loss, Appalachian State's second straight, ends the visitor's dual season with a 7-16 mark.

Opening at 165 pounds, Kyle Blevins jumped out to a 3-2 lead, following the first three minutes of action, thanks to a takedown and an escape after Brad Clark carded a two-point reversal. Blevins choose down to open the second period and netted his second escape to push his lead to two points, 4-2.

Clark battled back, taking down the freshman as the buzzer sounded at the five minute mark to end the second period. Liberty's redshirt freshman had choice to begin the final two minutes and selected down, looking to break the 4-4 stalemate with an escape. But the Mountaineers's Blevins controlled the pace during the third, finishing a scoreless period with 1:53 in riding time to give the visitors an early 3-0 lead.

Scoring remained low at 174 pounds in the bout between Liberty's Eli Sanchez and Appalachian State's Antionne Jones. The bout remained knotted at zero until Jones scored an escape in the waning seconds of the second period to open up a 1-0 edge.

Sanchez, wrestling for just the seventh time this year, was unable to escape the grasp of Jones in the third period, as the sophomore picked up his first win by fall of the year, pinning Sanchez at 6:14 to give the visitors a 9-0 lead.

Needing team points to stay in the dual match, Liberty sent one of its senior leaders out onto the mats, Chris Daggett, in a 184-pound bout, pitting two 20-match winners on the year.

Daggett and Dylan Temple traded two-point moves in the first period, as Daggett scored a takedown, before Temple netted a reversal late in the period. The score remained the same until the last few seconds of the middle period, as Temple escaped and took Daggett down for three quick points to give the visitor a 5-2 lead.

A reversal by Daggett pulled the senior within one of the sophomore, but a quick escape pushed the margin back to two points. The Mountaineers looked like they were going to take their third straight bout, but Daggett made a move on Temple, taking the Marietta, Ga., native down with 11 seconds left, while adding 4:21 of riding time for the 7-6 decision.

Finally on the scoreboard at 9-3, Liberty added to its lead at 197 pounds, as Brandon Johnson picked up a hard-fought three-point decision over David Pritz.

A first period takedown, coupled with a second-period escape, gave Liberty's sophomore a 3-1 lead after five minutes of action. After an early escape pulled Pritz within one, Johnson brought the 428 fans inside the Vines Center to their feet with a takedown with 11 ticks left on the clock for a 5-2 decision to pull the home squad within three points, 9-6.

After several close bouts, the heavyweight match-up proved to quite different, as Patrick Walker dominated from the onset. The junior, who may have wrestled in his final home match for the Flames as he will graduate in May, was up by 11 points on Brandon Brothers following a takedown and three sets of near-fall points at the end of the first.

Following a quick escape and the second takedown of the bout, Walker recorded his first win by technical fall on the year, ending his bout with Brothers at 5:26 (16-1) to give the Flames their first lead on the evening at 11-9.

Following a forfeit at 125 pounds by Liberty to Appalachian State's Austin Annas, Liberty quickly got the six points back at 133 pounds.

Frank Celorri, looking to avenge a 5-3 loss to Christian Smith earlier this year that gave Liberty's senior seventh place at the Southern Scuffle, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with an early takedown.

However later in the first, Smith slipped away from the junior's hold for an escape, directly followed by a takedown that led to the senior capping of his home career at Liberty in fashion with a pin at 2:56 for his 21st victory of the year and a 17-15 edge for the Flames.

Tim Harner took to the mat next, looking to follow in his fellow seniors' footsteps with one more home victory, and the No. 19 ranked wrestler by W.I.N. Magazine.com did not disappoint.

The Norriwtown, Pa., controlled the match from the opening whistle and led 5-1 after five minutes. However, he pushed his dominance in the last period, scoring three takedowns to go along with 2:18 of riding time. The 12-3 major decision gave the senior his 23rd victory of the season on his fifth win in a row and 13 victories in his last 14 trips out to the mat.

With the overall dual match hanging in the balance and Liberty in the lead 21-15, Frankie Gayeski took the mat against Savva Kostis at 149 pounds. Liberty's redshirt junior scored two first period takedowns to open a 4-3 lead after three minutes of action.

Gayeski added an escape during the middle period to lead by two, 5-3, with two minutes left. But Kostis wouldn't go quietly, as the freshman scored netted an escape to open the third and pressed Liberty's 149-pounder, who was able to outlast his competitor for his fifth-straight win and dual deciding 5-4 decision.

With Liberty's first victory over Appalachian State sealed in five tries, Julian Colon looked to close out Liberty's perfect 3-0 home schedule with one last victory at 157 pounds.

However, Chip Howell quickly recorded an early takedown, while the two grapplers traded escape points during the final four minutes, resulting a 3-1 setback for Colon to end the dual.

The evening's dual brings to a close the 2008-09 regular-season schedule for both squads, leaving just the postseason for Liberty and Appalachian State.

Liberty will travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., on March 7 to compete in the NCAA East Regional championship, while Appalachian State will make the trek to Charleston, S.C., for the Southern Conference championship on the same day.

Liberty, winners of the last two NCAA East Regional titles, captured six of the 10 weigh class titles last season, when the Flames hosted the event in the Vines Center, giving a half dozen grapplers a ticket to the NCAA National Championship.