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NCAA Preview with Clymer and Gayeski
|Liberty's Scott Clymer (141 pounds) and Frankie Gayeski (149 pounds)|
In total, the Flames will 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.
Clymer and Gayeski are two of Liberty's five first-time national qualifiers, as today's previewed grapplers will be joined by Jonathan Childress (125 pounds), Joe Pantaleo (133 pounds) and Nick Knowles (184 pounds) as event rookies.
Clymer (R-So., Germansville, Pa.) has been waiting in the wings for his chance to advance to the national championship since he joined the program three years ago.
However, when he came to Liberty Mountain, Tim Harner had a stranglehold on the starting spot at 141 pounds. Harner was a three-time national qualifier in the weight class and was one of two Liberty grapplers to advance to the Round of 16 in 2008.
Having learned from his predecessor, Clymer started the year out strong, placing at both the Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Tournament (fourth place) and the Keystone Classic (third place) to open the year with an 8-3 record.
Once the New Year hit, Clymer continued his dominant run during the closing portion of the season, winning six of his last seven duals to enter the national championship with a 19-10 record and 40 career victories.
Clymer's only loss during the calendar year was a tough 10-8 setback to Trevor Melde of Rutgers, who is also among this year's 33 national qualifiers at 141 pounds. Clymer led the sophomore, who is 25-10 in the year, late in the third, 7-4, but Melde reversed control and scored three near-fall points within the last 20 seconds of the bout to take the two-point decision in Liberty's home dual.
Clymer is tied with Gayeski for second on the team with six major decision wins, including two in his last two bouts.
He closed out the regular season with a 14-2 win over Appalachian State's Chris Collura, before a dominant win over Campbell's Kelin Bidelspach, 14-0, in the title bout of the NCAA East Regional Championships, keeping Liberty's string of 141-pound national qualifiers alive.
Clymer will be facing off against No. 12 seed Adin Duenas of Cal State Fullerton in the opening round of this year's national championship. The Pac-10 141-pound title holder comes into the matchup with a 20-8 record and is one of three Titans heading to Omaha.
The trio could be the last Cal State Fullerton grapplers to see the national scene in program history, as the University is considering shutting down the program after this year due to financial cutbacks.
Gayeski (R-Sr., Malaga, N.J.) is one of three captains on this year's squad and the first-time national qualifier leads the program with a 26-6 record.
Currently listed No. 20 in the latest W.I.N. Magazine rankings at 149 pounds, Gayeski is considered by some as one of the most improved wrestlers in the country this season. The redshirt senior opened the 2008-09 season at 141 pounds, but switched back to his more traditional weight of 149 pounds midway through his first year on the mats with the Flames.
The transfer from Lehigh posted an 11-10 record at 149 pounds (12-17 overall) and lost to No. 10 Matt Cathell of Delaware State in the title bout of last year's NCAA East Regional Championships.
However, those who witnessed Gayeski train this fall inside the Wiseman Wrestling Room could certainly see a different level of determination and focus in his eyes, and it did not take long for the results to start to show on the wrestling mats.
During his third event of the year, Gayeski thrilled his hometown family and friends who traveled to near-by Philadelphia, Pa., when he took the title at the Keystone Classic. His victory at 149 pounds helped secure a team title for the Flames, in a field that included a pair of then Top 25 programs (host Penn and Duke).
The four victories at the Keystone Classic started a stretch where Gayeski won 15-straight bouts, until he suffered an injury in the middle of a bout he eventually lost to Penn's Cesar Grajales, 2-1, in the semifinals at UNC Greensboro's Southern Scuffle.
Gayeski's run to 26 wins this year has helped him face some of the top competition in the country, including five grapplers that are in this year's 149-pound national field.
He has posted a 3-2 record against those five familiar foes, including wins over Binghamton's Donnie Vinson (Dec., 5-1), N.C. State's Bobby Ward (Dec., 9-6) and George Mason's Brandon Bucher (Dec., 9-2).
Gayeski, who will be making his final collegiate trips round the mat in Omaha this week, has won seven of his last eight bouts and his last four in a row. His last two triumphs, which helped him win the national qualifier at the NCAA East Regional Championships, could not have come in a more different manner.
After the top seed opened with a convincing 11-3 major decision over Duquesne's Josh Pascazi in the semifinals, Gayeski used a third-period takedown and some solid defense to fend off Millersville's John Lester for the 3-2 win in the title match-up.
Gayeski will have his hands full in his first-round matchup on Thursday, when he opens the national championship against No. 7 seed Mitch Mueller of Iowa State, who is ranked No. 8 in the country by W.I.N. Magazine. One of 10 Cyclone grapplers making the trek to Omaha, Mueller comes in as the Big 12 runner-up, sporting a 25-8 record after winning six of his last seven bouts.
Tomorrow, LibertyFlames.com will continue its preview coverage of the 2010 NCAA National Wrestling Championships, when the web site takes a look at Chad Porter and Nick Knowles, Liberty's national qualifiers at 165 and 184 pounds, respectively.