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Wrestling Ranked Top 20 Academically by NWCA
For the second year in a row, the Liberty wrestling program ranked among the nation's Top 20 wrestling programs, academically. The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) released its annual Division I All-Academic Top 30 Teams and the NWCA Individual All-Academic wrestling team for the 2008-09 season yesterday, listing Liberty at No. 20 and placing two Flames grapplers on the individual academic team.
For teams to be eligible for consideration, the team GPA is comprised of 12 student-athletes, including the 10 wrestlers who were the entries in the NCAA Tournament conference qualifier. Liberty's dozen compiled a combined 2.9826 team GPA.
For the second year in a row, American took home the team honor, as the Eagles posted a combined 3.2839 GPA, followed by Harvard at No. 2 (3.2585), Stanford at No. 3 (3.2574) and last year's runner-up Duke at No. 4 (3.2331).
Liberty led a trio of NCAA East Regional programs to crack the Top 30 NWCA listing. Campbell came in at No. 23 (2.9694) and Duquesne grabbed the final spot at No. 30 (2.8824).
This is the third-such team academic honor the Flames have received this year, as the accolade doled out by the NWCA joins a pair handed out by the NCAA.
When the NCAA gave public recognition to the best Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, the Liberty's wrestling program was listed among the Top 10 percent nationally in its respective sport. The Flames were one of eight wrestling programs recognized by the NCAA in the listing.
The NCAA also recently recognized the most improved APR scores from the previous year and Liberty was listed No. 10 on the Top 20 Most Improved APR wrestling scores. The Flames bettered their 2007-08 score by 22 points this past academic year.
The NWCA also recognized 73 individuals for their academic excellence, as they were named to the NWCA Individual All-Academic wrestling team. The listing is spotlighted by 51 NCAA qualifiers, 17 NCAA All-Americans, eight NCAA finalists and five NCAA champions. In total, 73 individuals representing 45 schools were honored this year on the All-Academic Team.
Liberty placed a pair of grapplers on the individual academic listing, as Tim Harner and Christian Smith were named among the NWCA's 73 best.
Smith, a graduate student, has a 3.92 cumulative GPA in his pursuit of his MBA, while Harner finished up his Liberty career with a 3.32 cumulative GPA, as he received his sport management undergraduate degree.
Both Smith and Harner made their fourth career trips to the NCAA national championship, capping off successful careers in a Liberty singlet.
Smith captured his first career NCAA championship event win with an opening-round decision at 133 pounds. A 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 3 second-team honoree, Smith posted a 25-16 overall mark this past season, wrapping up his career mark at 95-80.
Harner, at 141 pounds, tied Smith for the team's overall lead with a 25-10 record on the mats, including an impressive 18-2 mark in dual matches. Harner posted a 94-38 record in his three years at Liberty and a 120-53 collegiate record when adding his freshman year at Rider.
This marks the second time since the close of the 2008-09 season that both Smith and Harner have been recognized by an organization. In April, the pair was named to the VaSID all-state wrestling team, as Harner garnered first-team honors and Smith was named to the second team, which is compiled by the Virginia Sports Information Directors.