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NCAA Preview with Childress and Pantaleo
|Liberty's Jonathan Childress (125 pounds) and Joe Pantaleo (133 pounds)|
In total, the Flames have six wrestlers heading to the nation's elite collegiate wrestling event, which begins on Thursday inside the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. There are only 14 teams in the country that will be sending more grapplers to the national championships than the Flames, with all 14 being nationally ranked programs.
Childress (Fr., Red Lion, Pa.) upended two higher seeded wrestlers at the NCAA East Regional Championship, last weekend in Millersville, Pa., to grab the region's 125-pound national qualifier.
The freshman battled some injuries during the month of February, and after six-straight losses during the month, Childress entered the regional at the No. 3 seed.
Childress opened the event with a come-from-behind victory over No. 2 seed C.J. Gittens of Campbell in a 6-5 decision, before scoring an 11-6 victory over top-seeded Michael Slaughter in the championship bout. Just three weeks earlier, he had lost to both wrestlers at the Eastern Regional Duals.
Childress comes into the NCAA national championships sporting a 12-14 overall record and he will be pitted against a familiar foe during the opening rounds on Thursday.
The rookie is slated to open the three-day event against Appalachian State's Tony Gravely with the victor taking on the winner of the Ross Gitomer (Virginia) and No. 4 seed Anthony Robles (Arizona State) match in the next round of the championship bracket.
Childress has already faced Gravely twice during his young collegiate career, with each grappler claiming victory once.
The two opened the Keystone Classic (Nov. 22) against each other, and Childress started his run to a fifth-place finish at the event with an 8-2 decision victory. However, Gravely was able to even the series on Feb. 22, during both squad's final dual of the year, with a 5-2 decision win in Boone, N.C.
Pantaleo (R-Fr., Stafford, Va.) took a different path to his national qualifying victory at the NCAA East Regional Championships, as the 133-pounder was the top seed in the bracket.
After having to sit out of last year's regional event due a season-ending injury he suffered last January, Pantaleo took full advantage of his first national qualifying event.
After dominating both of his opponents at the Eastern Regional Duals with a pair of major decisions three weeks prior, Pantaleo certainly entered the regional championships with confidence and experience on his side.
Pantaleo opened the Millersville-hosted event with a 9-3 decision over Gardner-Webb's Brett Kostern, which included his third takedown of the match with three near-fall points during the final two minutes of action.
After having just watched Childress score his upset victory at 125 pounds, Pantaleo kept things rolling for the Flames with a 13-1 major decision win over Gardner-Webb's Richie Apolinar. A strong second period enabled the redshirt freshman to open up an 8-0 lead, while the third saw him add another two-point move and 4:41 of riding time to secure the victory in the championship bout.
Just like Childress, Pantaleo will be entering his first national championship with prior knowledge of his first-round opponent. On Feb. 12, Liberty hosted No. 23 Rutgers where Pantaleo faced off against Bill Ashnault, who he will face on Thursday morning.
The February match between the two grapplers remained scoreless, until Ashnault scored an early escape out of the down position to begin the second period. Less than a minute later, the junior scored a takedown on Pantaleo, which eventually led him to a decisive move for a win by fall at 4:20.
The winner of the bout between Pantaleo and Ashnault will advance in the championship bracket to face the victor of the No. 3 seed Franklin Gomez (Michigan State) and Flint Ray (Utah Valley) matchups.
Tomorrow, LibertyFlames.com will continue it preview coverage of the 2010 NCAA National Wrestling Championships, when the web site takes a look at Scott Clymer and Frankie Gayeski, Liberty's national qualifiers at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively.