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LU Takes Home Fourth-Straight Regional Title
Behind the strength of six individual weight class champions and three runner-up finishers, Liberty dominated the field at the 2010 NCAA East Regional Wrestling Championships on Saturday, capturing the program's fourth-straight team title at the event.
Liberty tied a program record with six national qualifiers, while setting another mark with nine total competitors in the championship round.
Since Liberty reinstated its wrestling program for the 2006-07 season, Liberty has controlled action in the East Region, winning all four team titles and capturing 18 individual weight class titles. Over the same four-year span, this year's field has won a combined 17 individual weight class championships.
Liberty also set a new program record for most points earned at an NCAA East Regional Championship, finishing atop the five-team standings with 110.5 team points. The figure bested Liberty's 2008 team, which scored 108.5 points and also earned six national qualifiers.
The figure is the most team points scored at the event since Millersville recorded 125 points en route to the team title in 2003.
The first of six individual champions on the day was somewhat of a surprise for the Flames, as Jonathan Childress came into the event having lost his last six bouts at 125 pounds, including to both wrestlers he would face on the day.
Childress found himself trailing in his opening bout against Campbell's C.J. Gittens, but the freshman rallied with four points in the third to advance to the title bout with a 6-5 win.
Facing the No. 1 seed in Gardner-Webb's Michael Slaughter, the rookie found himself down early again. But a penalty point to go along with a move that led to three near-fall points in the waning seconds of the second set up a dramatic third period.
Trailing 6-2, Slaughter got aggressive, which led to two additional penalty points, including one after a move that pushed Childress off the mat and into the stands. However, Childress kept his cool and was able to control the action on the mats, resulting in an 11-6 victory to capture the 125-pound weight class title.
At 133 pounds, Joe Pantaleo had a much easier road than his fellow lightweight, en route to his weight-class victory. The redshirt freshman, who was seeded No. 1 in the event, opened with a 9-3 victory over Gardner-Webb's Brett Kostern.
In the title bout, Pantaleo opened his matchup with Campbell's Richie Apolinar with a takedown and six combined near-fall points to jump out to an 8-0 lead after the first period. The Stafford, Va., native continued to control the pace the rest of the way, resulting in 4:41 of riding time, which helped in his 13-1 win in the championship matchup.
Scott Clymer kept things rolling for the lower half of head coach Jesse Castro's starting 10, with the redshirt sophomore needing just one bout to earn his national-qualifying victory.
After Clymer received a bye because Duquesne's Tony Lascari was scratched earlier in the day, Clymer scored an early takedown to jump out to a 2-0 lead in his championship bout with Campbell's Kelin Bidelspach. The "Keystone State" native then trilled his near-by followers by adding six points in the second and five more in the third to go along with 4:13 of riding time. The dominating performance resulted in a 14-0 major decision and Liberty's third national qualifier on the day.
Frankie Gayeski picked up his 25th and 26th victories of the year on the day in his championship run, but the two could not have come in a different manner.
Following a dominating 11-3 major decision over Duquesne's Josh Pascazi, Gayeski needed the entire seven minutes to score a 3-2 win over Millersville's John Lester in the title bout.
Neither grappler would score until Gayeski slipped away from Lester to open the second period. Lester pulled the same move on Gayeski to begin the third, but Gayeski countered with a takedown with 52 seconds left. Lester got away from Gayeski and tried to make several last-second pushes to score again, but they would prove futile, as Liberty's redshirt senior made it four-for-four for the Flames in the championship round.
The 157-pound bracket was the most anticipated of the event, as it featured the regional's last three national qualifiers and a pair of 20-win victors on the season.
Shaun Smith was able to take down the first 20-win grappler when he scored a late escape in the third to secure an 8-7 decision over Gardner-Webb's Alex Medved.
The title bout was one of two East Regional fans had been clamoring about before the event, as it pitted Smith, the 2009 champion, against Millersville's Jarrett Hostetter, the 2007 and 2008 champion.
However, Hostetter, who beat Smith both in 2007 and 2008, made sure that he finished off his career at home in style. The senior put a quick move on Smith during the opening minutes with a two-point takedown that led to a win by fall at 1:28, giving him his 100th career victory and the weight-class title for the third time in four years.
The loss ends Smith's career at Liberty with a 62-58 record, earning the senior a permanent place in Liberty's Eagle Medal Club at the Bronze Level.
Liberty got back to capturing weight-class titles by sending Chad Porter out onto the mat at 165 pounds, a grappler who has just dominated the event each year he has been in it.
The weight-class victor in 2007 and 2008 continued his rule of the division with a win by fall over Campbell's Chris Mazzatta and a major decision over Millersville's Jeremy Brooks. Porter, who redshirted last year, is now 6-0 in his career at the championships, with five of his six wins coming by major decision.
At 174 pounds, Brad Clark advanced to the finals for the second year in a row, when he scored a win by fall in the second period (5:48) over Duquesne's Seth Csaszar.
In the title bout against Millersville's Shane Smith, Clark and he battled to a 2-2 tie after five minutes. But the hometown favorite moved to 23-7 on the season with three last-period points in his 7-4 victory over Clark to give the Marauders their second weight class champion on the day.
Seeded No. 1, Nick Knowles proved his belonged atop the 184-pound bracket by taking the weight class in thrilling fashion. He controlled his opening bout with Millersville's Josh Marquard from the onset and won by fall in the first period (2:29).
In the title bout, Knowles found his second matchup this year with Gardner-Webb's Jonathan Velazquez much tougher than the first go-around. After beating him 13-4 at the Eastern Regional Duals last month, Knowles needed extra time to win in this meeting. Tied at 3-3 after seven minutes, Knowles made the first move in overtime, scoring a takedown 37 seconds in to capture the bout, 5-3, and become Liberty's sixth and final national qualifier at this event.
The 197-pound bracket was the lone weight class in which Liberty did not have a championship-bout wrestler, as Jacobi Johnson dropped a hard-fought 3-1 decision to Duquesne's Justin Buchanan in the semifinals.
After rebounding with a 14-4 major decision win over Millersville's Brent Barr to open the consolation bracket, Johnson seemed ready to try to take home third place in his bout with Gardner-Webb's Travis Porter. Trailing just 2-1 to Porter after three minutes, Johnson gave up 12 second-period points, including the last takedown that forced him to medically forfeit after five minutes of action.
Besides the matchup of Hostetter and Smith at 157 pounds, fans at the NCAA East Regional Championship got to see their second-favorite bout in the championship tilt at heavyweight.
Both Liberty's Josh Pelletier and Gardner-Webb's Dustin Porter easily advanced in their semifinal bouts. Pelletier scored an 8-0 major decision over Duquesne's Nadeem Farah and Porter, who is ranked No. 12 in the country, pinned Charles Godfrey of Millersville in the first round (2:07).
The pair was familiar with each other, as Porter narrowly escaped with a 2-1 win over Pelletier, last month, at the Eastern Regional Duals. This go-around continued to remain close. Porter scored an early takedown, while Pelletier was able to knot the match a 2-2 heading in the final period with a pair of escapes.
However, Porter was able to complete his East Regional career with a lofty accomplishment, as the senior scored an early escape in the third to go along with a late takedown to secure the 5-2 win. With the victory, the senior captured his fourth-straight East Regional weight class title. For Pelletier, it marked just his eighth loss of the year, with six coming to Top 20 ranked grapplers.
Following the event, Millersville's Hostetter was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler, as the 157-pounder was 2-0 with a major decision win and a win by fall.
Castro was honored along with Hostetter, as Liberty's skipper was named the 2010 NCAA East Region Coach of the Year. This is Castro's third such honor, as the head coach also was the award's recipient in 2007 and 2008.
Liberty's six national qualifiers will have the next 11 days to prepare to face the nation's elite at the 2010 NCAA National Wrestling Championships. The first of three days of action inside the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., is slated to begin on March 18.