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Wrestling to Compete in Reno
After missing the 2009 version of the Reno Tournament of Champions due to inclement weather, the Liberty wrestling squad is making the trek to Reno, Nev., this weekend to participate in the event on Sunday.
This will be the Flames fourth time competing in "The Toughest Tournament in the USA" in the last five years, which will be contested at the Reno Events Center for the first time.
Liberty's best showing at the event came in its first year back on the mats, when Tim Harner placed fifth at 141 pounds in 2006. Led by Harner's finish, the Flames tallied 39 points to claim a 13th-place finish out of 29 teams. Harner stands as the lone Liberty wrestler to place in the event.
The Flames look to improve upon their most recent results in Reno, as the program slid back in each of their previous two finishes. The team scored 16.5 points in 2007 to place 19th out of 26 teams and earning 7.5 points in 2008 to place 28th out of 30 teams.
If head coach Jesse Castro's squad wants to improve on past finishes, they'll have to do so against some of the best grapplers in the country. This year's field holds four programs currently inside the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Boise State, No. 14 Oregon State and No. 24 Arizona State.
Also in the 30-team field are three programs that Liberty has already encountered this season. The Flames have come across West Virginia and Chattanooga in duals, dropping a 24-12 match with the Mountaineers and a 26-16 match with the Mocs. Additionally, Liberty competed in the Keystone Classic with Appalachian State, where the Flames finished seventh to the Mountaineers 10th place tournament finish.
As far as individuals, the field is filled with grapplers ranked inside InterMat's latest top-20 national rankings. Eleven with that distinction are inside the top five, and eight of the 10 weight classes hold a top five wrestler.
With Boise State's and Oklahoma State's high team rankings, they come into the Tournament of Champions with six and nine ranked individuals, respectively.
Boise State boasts three No. 2 ranked grapplers according to InterMat in Andrew Hochstrasser (133 pounds), Jason Chamberlain (149 pounds) and Adam Hall (157 pounds), with Hall being an All-American after a third-place finish at last year's NCAA National Championships.
The Cowboys also have three top-five grapplers, led by No. 1 Jordan Oliver (133 pounds) who also holds All-America honors with a fourth-place finish at last year's NCAAs. Jamal Parks (149 pounds) and Clayton Foster (197 pounds) are each ranked No. 4 at their respective weights.
Rounding out top-five grapplers in the field are Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming (No. 1 at 184 pounds), Nick Amuchastegui of Stanford (No. 4 at 174 pounds), Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly (No. 4 at 141 pounds) and Arizona State teammates Anthony Robles (No. 3 at 125 pounds) and Bubba Jenkins (No. 4 at 157 pounds).
For the most part, the Flames will field a young squad for the event. However, four grapplers making this year's trip to Reno have been before, with three picking up victories in previous showings.
Redshirt senior Chad Porter (165 pounds) has competed in the event twice for the Flames, posting a career 4-4 mark overall, including a 4-2 showing during his freshman year in 2006. Aside from his collegiate experience in Reno, Porter competed in the event during high school, including a second-place finish during his senior year.
Also competing in the West Coast event twice is redshirt junior Julian Colon. The 157-pounder has picked up victories at each showing, producing a 1-2 record in 2007 as a freshman and then a 2-2 mark the following year.
Redshirt junior Scott Clymer (149 pounds) and redshirt senior Josh Pelletier (HWT) round out the Flames with experience in Reno, with each competing once in the event. Clymer went 1-2 in 2007 as a freshman, while Pelletier competed in 2008, dropping both of his bouts as a redshirt sophomore.
Despite most of the remaining Flames having less experience at the West Coast event, they have the ability to make some noise in Reno.
Redshirt freshman Seth Hicks (141 pounds) and freshman Royal Brettrager II (174 pounds) will make their second tournament appearance of the year after each placed at the Keystone Classic on November 21 in Philadelphia.
Hicks went 3-2 in his first collegiate tournament to place fifth, while Brettrager II posted a 3-3 mark on the day to finish sixth in his first collegiate tournament.
Fellow freshman Robert Jillard (125 pounds) will also look for success in tournament format, as the Franklinville, N.J., native came away with a first-place finish while going 4-0 and competing unattached in the Davidson Open (Dec. 4). Jillard also posted a 3-2 record in the Keystone Classic.
Additionally, Aaron Thompson (197 pounds) heads to Reno riding an eight-bout win streak and will look to make his mark on the West Coast in his second career collegiate tournament. Thompson's previous tournament experience came in 2007 when he went 0-2 at the Southern Scuffle as a freshman.
2010 Reno Tournament of Champions Field
No. 24 Arizona State
No. 6 Boise State
Cal State Bakersfield
Cal State Fullerton
Clackamas Community College
Minnesota State - Mankato
North Dakota State
No. 2 Oklahoma State
No. 14 Oregon State
South Dakota State
Southwest Oregon Community College
Liberty Participants at the Tournament of Champions
125 – Jonathan Childress and Robert Jillard
133 – T. J. Mitchell
141 – Seth Hicks and Joey Montgomery
149 – Scott Clymer and Rich Bushby
157 – Julian Colon
165 – Chad Porter
174 – Royal Brettrager II
197 – Aaron Thompson
285 – Josh Pelletier