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Flames Capture Title at Keystone Classic
Liberty finished the day with 128 points, besting second-place American, who finished with 110.5 team points, followed by third-place finisher Appalachian State, who accumulated 103.5 team points.
Rounding out the top five squads in the nine-team field were a pair of Top 25 programs. Host and No. 24 Penn finished fourth with 101.5 points, followed by No. 25 Duke, who captured 74.5 team points.
The team tournament title was the sixth for the Flames since the program was reinstated for the 2006-07 season, but the first that has not been tied to the NCAA East Regional.
Liberty had five top three finishers on the day, spotlighted by Frankie Gayeski capturing the individual title at 149 pounds. The Flames also had a pair of runner-up finishes and two third-place winners.
At 125 pounds, freshman Jonathan Childress won his opening bout before quickly dropping to the consolation bracket after a 9-0 major decision setback to No. 1 seed and eventual weight class champion Jason Borshoff of American.
The Red Lion, Pa., native won two of his next three matchups, which placed him in the fifth-place bout, where he upended No. 6 seed Jonathan Pope of VMI, 8-2 to place for the first time during his early collegiate career.
In his first tournament back in the Flames' lineup since suffering a season-ending injury last January, Joe Pantaleo dropped his opening bout to fall to the 133-pound wrestleback bracket.
After two victories by decision, the sophomore dropped his next two matchups. He lost to No. 6 seed Cortland Choate of Brown, 4-0, before bowing out in the fifth-place bout against No. 4 seed Jacob Earp of Appalachian State because of a medical injury.
Scott Clymer was the first of five seeded grapplers for the Flames, getting a No. 3 seed at 141 pounds. The redshirt sophomore won his first two bouts, before dropping a hard-fought 7-5 decision to bracket runner-up Jordan Lipp of American.
He quickly rebounded, winning his next two times out onto the mats by major decision, including a 17-5 victory over Boston University's Abbie Rush and a 10-2 victory over No. 4 seed Mike Kessler of Appalachian State in the third-place bout. The outcome marked the second-straight placing for the Germansville, Pa., native after a fourth-place finish at the Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Tournament, last weekend, at Brockport, N.Y.
In somewhat of a homecoming for Gayeski, who grew up in nearby Malaga, N.J., the senior thrilled his friends and family members who made the 40-plus mile trek north by winning his first collegiate title at 149 pounds.
The team captain, seeded No. 3 in the event, never left a doubt during any of his four bouts, posting an early win by fall (1:07 over American's Sean McCarty), a major decision win and a pair of decision victories. The second and final decision win came in the finals, where he upended No. 1 seed Brent Jorge of Duke, 9-3, to capture the individual weight class title.
Shaun Smith, also ranked No. 3 in his weight class, posted three-straight decision wins, including a 7-3 victory over No. 2 seed Bryan Tracy of Brown, to advance to the title bout.
However, the senior's tournament run came to an end as he dropped an 18-5 major decision to No. 1 seed and national No. 17 ranked Steve Fittery of American, in the finals at 157 pounds.
Chad Porter, Liberty's lone No. 1 seed in the event, held up well during his first three trips out onto the mats, winning by major decision, fall and decision. But the junior's tournament run came to a difficult end at 165 pounds, when he dropped a narrow 6-5 decision to No. 2 seed Gabriel Burak of the homestanding Penn Quakers in the weight class championship match.
A 9-3 decision loss to No. 1 seed Austin Trotman of Appalachian State quickly dropped Brad Clark into the consolation bracket, where he found much more success.
The Audubon, Pa., native posted four-straight wins in the wrestleback bracket to capture the third-place title at 174 pounds. Two of his wins to the third-place bout were by fall, setting up a 13-5 major decision win over Penn's Cory Beaver to place in the event.
All four of David Ziegler's bouts at 184 pounds had a major decision outcome, where he was able to win two of the four matchups.
The Slippery Rock transfer posted major decision wins over VMI's Vincent Gallo, 15-3, and Penn's Harrison Cook, before dropping two major decisions to Duke's Diego Bencomo.
The first was a 19-9 major in the championship bracket, before suffering another major decision loss, 14-6, to the No. 4 seed in the fifth-place bout to give the newcomer to the Flames roster his second-straight sixth-place finish for Liberty.
Jacobi Johnson won his opening bout at 197 pounds, before being dropped to the consolation bracket after a 6-1 decision loss to No. 1 seed and eventual weight class victor Micah Burak of Penn.
Johnson won two of his next three bouts, placing him in the fifth-place match, where he posted a 15-4 major decision win over Princeton's Charles Fox.
Andrew Wilson followed the same exact bout path as Johnson, as the heavyweight won to open the day before suffering a 6-0 decision loss to the nation's top-ranked heavyweight, Konrad Dudziak of Duke.
After a major decision win and a first-period pin of No. 3 seed Tyler Blakely of Penn, a narrow 3-2 decision to Appalachian State's Ken Altarac dropped Wilson to the fifth-place bout. The sophomore capped off the victorious day for the Flames when he pinned Brown's Caleb Blaney in the first round (2:06) to secure the fifth-place finish for the Anchorage, Alaska, native.
Three other Flames, who were competing unattached, managed to post multiple victories on the day. Sean Katz (133 pounds) and Collin Lewis (141 pounds) both finished the day with 2-2 records, while Sam Walters was 3-2 at 149 pounds. Walters, who was knocked to the consolidation bracket by Gayeski during his title run, fought back to place fourth, giving Liberty 11 total grapplers who placed during the event.
After taking a few days off to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Flames will journey north to Bloomington, Ind., to participate in the Hoosier Duals on Saturday.
Liberty has entered Assembly Hall the last two years for the event, posting three combined wins. Last year, Liberty captured a 30-6 dual victory over Cumberlands and a back-and-forth 25-21 win over San Diego State.