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Rutgers Match Now to Serve as Senior Night

February 11, 2010
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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(left to right) Seniors Frankie Gayeski, Sean Katz, Collin Lewis and Shaun Smith will be honored prior to Liberty's dual against Campbell on Senior Night inside the Vines Center.

(left to right) Seniors Frankie Gayeski, Sean Katz, Collin Lewis and Shaun Smith will be honored prior to Liberty's dual against Campbell on Senior Night inside the Vines Center.

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The Flames will make a second attempt at Senior Night, as Liberty is scheduled to honor its four seniors prior to the opening whistle in its dual match against No. 23 Rutgers, Friday night, inside the Vines Center.

Liberty was going to honor the quartet of Frankie Gayeski, Sean Katz, Collin Lewis and Shaun Smith before its Tuesday night matchup with East Regional foe Campbell. But for the second time this season, the match was postponed due to inclement weather.

With the matchup with the Camels still in limbo, as no makeup date has been currently scheduled, the Flames will now turn their sights onto one of the hottest wrestling programs in the country.

The Scarlet Knights come into Friday's dual riding a 12-match unbeaten streak, which includes 11 wins and a tie. Rutgers' last loss came on Dec. 12, 2009, when the Scarlet Knights suffered a 21-18 setback to then No. 24-ranked Pittsburgh.

For the second week in a row, Rutgers is ranked No. 23 in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, the program's highest national ranking.

Weather has played a factor in Rutgers' schedule as well, as the Scarlet Knights have not circled the wrestling mats since picking up a 23-10 decision over Navy at home on Jan. 30.

During its current streak, Rutgers has reeled off six-straight wins, including a 25-12 win over No. 23 Virginia on Jan. 29. The only non victory during its 12-match unbeaten streak was a 16-16 tie at Michigan State at the Spartan Duals on Jan. 16.

This will mark the second year in a row the two programs have squared off, with the Scarlet Knights holding a 1-0 edge in the series after a 25-9 victory last year at the Hoosier Duals.

Liberty led 9-6 after four bouts, as the Flames picked up decision wins at 125, 133 and 149 pounds. But Rutgers closed out the dual with six-straight wins to secure the 16-point dual victory inside Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Five current Flames and three current Scarlet Knights participated in the dual, but only two have the potential to matchup again this go around. The possible matchup would be at heavyweight, where Liberty's Josh Pelletier will have a chance to avenge a 2-1 setback to Dominick Russo, which closed out last year's dual.

Russo is the Scarlet Knights' leader on the mats this year, as the redshirt junior comes into the dual having won 14-straight matches to raise his record to 25-4 on the year. The 2009 national qualifier is currently ranked No. 8 in the country and has posted a 17-1 dual record this year, where he has scored 87 points and only allowed six.

Just one weight class ahead of Russo is Lamar Brown, where Rutgers' 197-pounder is ranked No. 18 nationally. A 2008 national qualifier who sat out last year, Brown is 19-5 on the season and 12-4 in dual action.

On the opposite end of the weight-class lineup is Joseph Langel, who comes into the weekend having won his last 14 matches to up his mark on the season to 23-5. He is 11-2 in dual action and is a perfect 8-0 in matches with a major decision outcome.

Liberty's four seniors, two of whom are in the projected starting lineup against the nationally ranked foe, will look to close out the Flames' home slate with a win, which would give head coach Jesse Castro his 49th victory since taking over the program four years ago.

The Flames are coming off two dominating wins at the last weekend's Eastern Regional Duals, an event that suffered a schedule alteration due to the inclement weather.

With Millersville and Duquesne, two Pennsylvania programs, unable to make the drive to Buies Creek, N.C., no team title was given out, leaving the Flames unable to defend their championship for the third year in a row.

Liberty did make the most of the time it did have the mats, as the Flames posted a 31-9 victory over Gardner-Webb and a 38-4 victory over host Campbell. On the day, the Flames won 16 out of 20 weight class matchups with their "A" team. The Flames did field a "B" squad to fill up the event's bracket, with the extra team posting a 1-1 record in exhibition action.

Brad Clark was Liberty's standout in the event, as the 174-pounder posted a 2-0 record with both of his wins coming by fall in the first period. Clark, who was dubbed the team's Most Outstanding Wrestler on the day, has now won three of his last four matches, raising his 2009-10 mark to 15-10 and 6-1 in matches decided by fall.

Also posting perfect 2-0 records on Saturday were Joe Pantaleo (133 pounds), Scott Clymer (141 pounds), Gayeski (149 pounds) and Chad Porter (165 pounds) On Liberty's "B" team, T. J. Mitchell (133 pounds) and Joseph Bayer (157 pounds) were also unbeaten in two exhibition matches.

Friday's dual with Rutgers will serve as Liberty's "Senior Night" event and the program is slated to honor senior's Gayeski, Katz, Lewis and Smith prior to the opening whistle inside the Vines Center.

Gayeski spotlights the graduating quartet, as the redshirt senior is capping off his days at Liberty with a banner season. Since returning to the lineup after a three-plus week layoff due to an injury, the 149-pounder has reeled off three-straight wins to up his record to 22-6.

Just like Gayeski, Smith is looking to leave his mark with a strong push during his final campaign. The 2009 national qualifier comes into Friday night with seven-straight wins and stands at 15-7 on the season.

He enters the night with a 59-56 career record, leaving him one victory short of joining Liberty's Bronze Eagle Medal Club (reserved for wrestlers with 60-79 career victories).

The Flames Sports Network will continue is television coverage of the wrestling program when it broadcasts the dual event locally on WTLU and WRTN, as well as video stream the coverage via the internet through the Big South Network.

Liberty (9-8)
125 – Jonathan Childress (10-11)
133 – Joe Pantaleo (11-11)
141 – Scott Clymer (17-9)
149 – Frankie Gayeski (22-6)
157 – Shaun Smith (15-7)
165 – Chad Porter (19-9)
174 – Brad Clark (16-10)
184 – Nick Knowles (13-13)
197 – Jacobi Johnson (9-17)
285 – Josh Pelletier (12-6) or Andrew Wilson (10-10)

No. 23 Rutgers (16-4-1)
125 – Joseph Langel (23-5) or Vincent Dellefave (5-4)
133 – Bill Ashnault (21-8)
141 – Trevor Melde (21-6) or Luke Rigoglisio (4-6)
149 – David Greenwald (16-8) or Kellen Bradley (12-8)
157 – Daryl Cocozzo (20-7)
165 – Gregory Zannetti (17-9) or Matthew Rigoglisio (5-5)
174 – Daniel Rinaldi (22-7)
184 – Daniel Seidenberg (13-13) or Jesse Boyden (9-10)
197 – No. 18 Lamar Brown (19-5)
285 – No. 8 Dominick Russo (25-4)