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Flames Fall to Drexel to End Stay at Duals
Liberty opened the day with a 36-6 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma State, followed by a 27-6 loss to hometown favorite No. 23 Old Dominion. With the three setbacks on the day, Liberty's dual meet record now stands at an even 6-6.
The dual versus Drexel opened up strong for Liberty, as Justin Branham gave the Flames a quick 3-0 jumpstart with a decision victory at 125 pounds. The freshman used a late first-period takedown to jump out to a lead he would never relinquish.
The score remained the same until Branham added four points in the third, with one coming by escape, two more by a takedown and the final due to his 2:12 riding time edge, giving him a 6-0 decision victory.
Sean Katz drew the lone nationally-ranked grappler on Drexel's roster at 133 pounds, as he was pitted up against No. 19 Steve Mytych.
Mytych opened the day strong with a 5-3 upset over No. 5 Danny Mitcheff of Kent State and then used the momentum the rest of the day to dominate in his weight class. A takedown with three near fall points in the first set the tone for the match that eventually finished in a 10-1 major decision victory for the Dragon wrestler.
Drexel added to its dual match lead with a narrow 7-5 decision by Shane Fenningham over Collin Lewis at 141 pounds.
Fenningham looked to be in complete control of the match, with a 7-2 lead after five minutes. Lewis came storming back in the third to erase a sizeable riding time edge and score three points. But he would run out of time late in the bout and could only trim the five-point deficit to two points by time the final whistle blew.
The Flames hoped their best grappler could stop the Dragon run, as head coach Jesse Castro sent Frankie Gayeski out onto the mat at 149 pounds against Brett McCurdy, with the senior looking for his 20th win of the year.
Gayeski led after one period, 4-2, thanks to two first-period takedowns. McCurdy was able to escape late in the second period to pull within one and the wrestling move proved to be beneficial, as McCurdy was able to then flip Gayeski and pin him to the mat for a win by fall (4:41) with just 19 seconds left in the second.
Shaun Smith pulled the Flames back within seven, 13-6, as the senior captain scored a 4-1 decision victory over Charles Aungst at 157 pounds.
Smith was dominating the bout, as he controlled Aungst for most of the first five minutes. But late in the middle period, a move by Aungst caused Smith to suffer a head injury that had to be bandaged up several times during the later part of the bout.
The injury did serve as a distraction to Smith, but not enough for his to lose the bout, as the senior held on for a 4-1 decision victory, thanks in part to an extra point for riding time (1:32).
Chad Porter kept things rolling for the Flames, as the junior scored a hard-fought 2-1 decision at 165 pounds, to pull the Flames within five points in the dual, 13-8.
The low-scoring bout had several unique moments, including one that nearly forced a different outcome in the matchup. Late in the first period, Porter made a move on his opponent, Alex Rinaldi, by getting a hold of his ankle.
The move forced both wrestlers near the edge of the circle and the official blew his whistle to bring the action back to the center of the mat. However, Liberty's bench did not agree with the call to stop the action and the official ended up awarding Rinaldi an individual point, while also taking away a dual match point from Liberty's team score.
Porter was able to overcome the extra emotion in the matchup, securing the 2-1 win by virtue of a second-period escape and the extra point gained by controlling riding time (1:40).
Dave Woodall was able to stop Liberty's run of weight-class wins, by picking up a 14-5 major decision victory over Brad Clark and widening Drexel's dual lead to 17-8.
Woodall held a 7-1 lead going into the final two minutes and Clark tried to get back into the match with four points, two by escapes and one by reversal. However, Woodall put the match out of reach with seven points over the final two minutes to secure his win at 174 pounds.
The Flames managed to stay in the dual with another low-scoring win, with Nick Knowles taking a 3-1 decision from Justin Wieller at 184 pounds to trim Liberty's deficit to six, 17-11.
Knowles scored the decisive move with 27 seconds left in the first period with a takedown to open up a 2-0 lead. The two grapplers traded escape points during the remaining four minutes of the matchup, allowing Knowles to take the two-point victory.
Jacobi Johnson looked like he was going to help the Flames narrow the gap even more, as he led in his 197-pound bout with Jack Callender, 5-2, after five minutes, thanks in part to two takedowns in the first period.
However, Callender came back strong during the last 120 seconds, tying the match with an escape and a mid-period takedown, which eventually led to him racking up the deciding riding time advantage of 1:53 in the one-point bout, 6-5.
Kyle Frey was able to cap off Drexel's lone dual victory at the Virginia Duals with a 10-1 major decision over Andrew Wilson at heavyweight. Frey scored two takedowns in the first, the second coming with two near fall points, to open up a lead he would never relinquish in the final collegiate matchup of the evening.
The Flames will have the next two weeks to regroup and prepare for their next matchup, against an opponent they finished up next to during the final session of the Virginia Duals.
Liberty will return home for the first time since Nov. 7, when the Flames host Bucknell on Jan. 23 inside the Vines Center. The match, which will be the first of four home events to be televised on the Flames Sports Network, is slated to begin at 3 p.m.
After two losses earlier in the day, Bucknell found itself in the 5 p.m. collegiate session along with the Flames at conjoining mats. However, the Bison dominated their matchup with UC Davis, taking eight of the first nine weight classes, before UC Davis scored a win by fall to narrow Bucknell's dual victory to 23 points, 32-9.