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Regular-Season Finale Gives Castro Milestone
With the win, Liberty wraps up its fourth season back on the mats following a 12-year hiatus with an 11-9 dual meet record. The Flames' second straight victory over the Mountaineers was a milestone win for head coach Jesse Castro. The victory marked the fourth-year skipper's 50th career dual victory.
The loss ends Appalachian State's regular season and will send the homestanding Mountaineers into the upcoming SoCon Championships with a 9-11 dual record.
The dual opened up at 157 pounds in a matchup between Liberty's Shaun Smith and Appalachian State's Chip Powell.
Smith, fresh off joining Liberty's Eagle Medal Club at the Bronze level with his 60th career win, won by the same score he did last Thursday night, as the senior gave Liberty a 3-0 lead with a 7-6 decision victory.
Things remained close in the next bout, which pitted a pair of 20-match victors against each other in Chad Porter and Kyle Blevins. Both grapplers came into the night riding recent runs of success, with Porter winning his last five duals and Blevins walking away victorious in 11 of his last 12 bouts.
The similar action between the two wrestlers followed suit on the mats, as the matchup could not be decided during regulation. But Porter was the one to make the decisive move during the overtime period, scoring a takedown to pick up his 21st win of the year and give Liberty the 6-0 lead.
Brad Clark kept things rolling for the Flames, ending Carter Downs' two-match winning streak with a 5-2 decision victory at 174 pounds to extend Liberty's lead to 9-0.
Down nine points, the Mountaineers sent their top grappler out onto the mats in Austin Trotman, where they were looking to pick up bonus points from the country's No. 19 ranked grappler at 184 pounds.
However, Nick Knowles gave the redshirt sophomore all he could handle, as Trotman escaped with narrow 5-4 decision win. The victory was Trotman's 13th in a row; however, it was his closest decision during the "baker's dozen" run of wins.
The bonus points Appalachian State was looking for from their leader came in the next bout, as Dylan Temple picked up his 20th win of the season with an 11-3 major decision over Jacobi Johnson to pull the home squad within two points, 9-7.
Josh Pelletier pushed the lead back out to five points for the Flames, 12-7, with a low-scoring, 4-1 decision win over Ken Altarac at heavyweight for his 14th victory of the season.
The Mountaineers quickly answered back to close the dual's gap back to two points, 12-10, when Tony Gravely picked up his second-straight, 5-2 decision, this one coming over Liberty's Jonathan Childress at 125 pounds.
However, Joe Pantaleo started a run of three-straight wins by Liberty in fine fashion to help secure the Flames' 11th dual win of the season. The redshirt freshman controlled his bout with Weston Haney from the onset and quickly pinned the sophomore at 1:28 to give Liberty six points and his first win by fall of the season.
Scott Clymer kept the bonus points rolling in favor of the Flames, when the redshirt sophomore won his sixth bout in seven tries with a 14-2 major decision over Chris Collura. The 12-point victory pushed Liberty's margin to 22-10 and edged Clymer within one victory of his 40th career win.
With the dual already in hand, Liberty's Frankie Gayeski and Appalachian State's Savva Kostis took to the mat inside Varsity Gym in a rematch of last year's 149-pound bout, one that Gayeski won and helped Liberty score a 24-18 dual victory over Appalachian State.
Last year's bout saw Gayeski jump out to an early lead and hang on for a 5-4 decision. But this year, Gayeski left no doubt, as Liberty's wins leader picked up his 24th victory of the season with a convincing 8-3 decision, closing out the night's action.
Riding a recent wave of success with two-straight wins, the Flames will have the next week and half off to prepare for their most important event of the year – the NCAA East Regionals.
The Flames enter the national qualifying event, which will take place in Millersville, Pa., on March 6, as the three-time defending champion. During Liberty's three team title runs, the Flames have qualified 14 grapplers for the NCAA national championships over the past three seasons.