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Wrestling Prepares to Defend Keystone Title
The Flames are set to compete in their first tournament of the year, as they prepare to travel to Philadelphia and attempt to defend their title from last season at the Keystone Classic. The tournament, hosted by Penn, will take place inside the historic Palestra all day Sunday.
Liberty earned the first-place finish last season by having all 10 of the squad's featured wrestlers place at the event, including five top-three grapplers. Current Flames Scott Clymer and Chad Porter earned two of the five top-three finishes, with Clymer taking third at 141 pounds and Porter finishing as the runner-up at 165 pounds.
The team tournament title was the program's sixth since being reinstated for the 2006-07 season, with the other five coming at the NCAA East Regional.
With 10 Flames placing, Liberty racked up 128 team points on the day, besting second-place American, who finished with 110.5 team points. Appalachian State placed third with 103.5 team points, while No. 24 ranked Penn and No. 25 ranked Duke rounded out the top five with 101.5 and 74.5 team points, respectively.
This season, each of the aforementioned teams are again included in the field, with Brown, Boston, Edinboro, Northwestern, Princeton, Rider and VMI completing the 12-team field.
This year, American and Northwestern currently hold national rankings entering the event. American is ranked as high as No. 21, while Northwestern tops out at No. 15 in the various rankings. Each squad has three grapplers inside the latest individual top-20 rankings from InterMat. Despite not being ranked as a team, host Penn has the most ranked wrestlers in the tournament, with four squad members among the latest InterMat national rankings.
Each weight class at the Keystone Classic includes a nationally ranked wrestler, with half of the weight classes featuring two grapplers with such a distinction.
At 125 pounds, Princeton and Northwestern each send one ranked wrestler to the mats. Northwestern's Brandon Precin is currently listed at No. 2 in the weight class, while Princeton's Garrett Frey is No. 15.
The 133-pound weight class also holds two ranked grapplers. Host Penn claims the higher ranked wrestler, with Rollie Peterkin currently ranked No. 10, while Boston's Freddie Santaite is No. 16.
Northwestern has ranked wrestlers at 149 and 157 pounds in Andrew Nadhir (149) at No. 10, and Jason Welch (157) at No. 7. All-Americans round out other ranked grapplers at these two weight classes. Edinboro's 149 pound wrestler Torsten Gillespie is listed No. 12 and American's Steve Fittery is ranked No. 2 in the 157 pound weight class. Last year at the Keystone Classic, Fittery came away with the 157-pound title, and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The last weight class which has multiple ranked opponents entered is 197 pounds. Penn's Micah Burak is listed at No. 15, and American's Daniel Mitchell is ranked No. 20. Burak will look to defend his individual title from last year's event in the weight class.
The final five ranked wrestlers in this year's event include Zack Kemmerer of Penn (No. 18, 141 pounds), Kyle Blevins of Appalachian State (No. 17, 165 pounds), Scott Griffin of Penn (No. 7, 174 pounds), Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro (No. 3, 184 pounds) and Ryan Flores of American (No. 8, 285 pounds). Penn's Kemmerer and Griffin won the individual title at their respective weight classes last year.
The Flames are coming off a split of two duals while in Chattanooga, Tenn., last weekend. Liberty dropped its opening contest against the host Mocs of Chattanooga, 26-16, before defeating Cumberland, 40-3.
In the opening weekend of action, the Flames produced a 3-1 record at the Terrapin Duals, including knocking off host Maryland, 21-17.
So far this year, the 133, 149, 174 and 197-pound weight classes have been the most successful for Liberty, with each producing a 5-1 record so far.
Returning NCAA qualifier Joe Pantaleo has led the way at 133 pounds, producing a 3-1 record.
At 149 pounds, three grapplers have been used to pick up victories. Redshirt freshman Miguel Rodriguez and redshirt junior and returning NCAA qualifier Scott Clymer have each earned two wins, while transfer Rich Bushby has added the fifth victory.
Freshman Royal Brettrager II has hit the ground running at 174 pounds, posting a 3-1 record with each win coming by pin. His lone loss came at the hands of Maryland's nationally-ranked Mike Letts.
Aaron Thompson has been the lone wrestler for the Flames at 197 pounds, a weight class that has given Head Coach Jesse Castro fits during his five years since the reinstatement of the program. After dropping his opening bout with Kyle Rooney of West Virginia, Thompson has rolled of five consecutive victories, for a 5-1 record this season.
LibertyFlames.com will provide live coverage from the Keystone Classic on Sunday via the LibertyFlames Twitter page. The day begins at 9:00 a.m., and will progress to the championship matches at 6:00 p.m..
Fans wishing to follow Liberty Athletics' coverage at the tournament will need to "follow" the LibertyFlames Twitter page by clicking here or the link at the top of the page.
Complete tournament updates will be available via the 2010 Keystone Classic's Twitter page.
Additionally, Penn Sports Network will be streaming live from the Keystone Classic, starting with the championship semifinals at 3 p.m. and continuing through the final round.
Liberty's Probable Starting Lineup at the Keystone Classic:
125 - Jonathan Childress or Robert Jillard or Joel Stafford or Justin Branham
133 - Joe Pantaleo or Andrew Goolsby or T. J. Mitchell or Nathan Nelson
141 – Seth Hicks or Bobby Leffew or Joey Montgomery or Daniel Pritz
149 – Scott Clymer or Rich Bushby or Miguel Rodriguez
157 – Julian Colon or Kameona Hokoana or Eric Reger
165 – Eli Sanchez or Jonathan Perkins
174 – Royal Brettrager II or Marcus Nielson
184 – Aaron Kelley
197 – Aaron Thompson
285 – Josh Pelletier