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Flames Set for Virginia Duals
The Liberty wrestling squad will open the 2011 year in a familiar way, as they make the Virginia Duals the first competition of the new year for the third-straight season. The event, which is a bracketed dual tournament, will lead the Flames into duals for the remainder of the regular season.
Hosted by the Peninsula Wrestling Association, the Virginia Duals take place Friday and Saturday at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va. This is the 31st edition of the Duals, with this year's event containing five Top 25 ranked teams in the 16-team National College Tournament bracket, including Penn State, who shares the No. 2 ranking with Oklahoma State after tying with No. 1 Cornell at the Southern Scuffle.
Of the 16 teams in the event, Liberty has already competed with all but two of them (Bucknell and Lehigh) in other events this year. In dual action against the field, the Flames dropped a 26-16 match with Chattanooga (Nov. 14), while Bucknell (Jan. 23), UNC Greensboro (Feb. 2) and VMI (Feb. 13) are on the slate for dual meets in the second half of the season.
In the brackets announced over the weekend, Liberty has drawn the third seeded and No. 15 ranked Michigan Wolverines to begin the tournament. The two programs will face off at 11 a.m. on Friday.
While never competing against the Big Ten program, the Flames have a connection with the Wolverines, as assistant coach Joe Pantaleo was a two-time All-American for Michigan before serving as a graduate assistant coach and later a volunteer coach in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines have gone 1-1 in their two dual meets this season, defeating No. 14 Pittsburg, 17-15, and dropping a 25-16 match to No. 13 Lehigh. Additionally, Michigan has produced quality tournament results, placing sixth in a 36-team field at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 3-4) and fourth at the Southern Scuffle (Dec. 29-30).
Michigan is led by redshirt junior Kellen Russell, who is ranked No. 1 in the nation at 141 pounds by InterMat. Russell captured the individual tournament titles at both the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Southern Scuffle and holds a flawless 16-0 overall record on the season.
The Wolverines also have three other ranked grapplers in the latest InterMat rankings in Zac Stevens (No. 18, 133 pounds), Anthony Biondo (No. 15, 197 pounds) and Ben Apland (No. 8, HWT).
Competing at the same time as the Flames and Wolverines will be Virginia and Buffalo. The winners of the two duals will square off in a championship quarterfinal, while the losers will meet in the consolation bracket. Both matches will be at 3 p.m on Friday.
While Virginia is not in the latest NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, the Cavaliers were in the Top 25 in the first six polls of the season, topping out at No. 23. They are currently just outside the rankings, as they are still receiving votes.
Coached by Steve Garland, the Cavaliers are 8-2 on the year, with their two losses coming to ranked opponents Lehigh and Pittsburgh, who were No. 12 and No. 17, respectively, when the programs met on Nov. 27 in the Northeast Duals.
A common opponent between Virginia and Liberty is Campbell, who the Cavaliers defeated handily, 53-0 on December 18. The Flames defeated Campbell on December 11, 38-3, in what is their most recent dual competition.
The Cavaliers currently have four ranked grapplers, spotlighted by No. 4 Chris Henrich at 174 pounds. The remainder of their upper weight classes are also strong for Virginia, as Jon Fausey and Mike Sapolek are each ranked No. 18 at the 184 and 197-pound weight classes, respectively.
The final team in the Flames immediate portion of the bracket is Buffalo, who has posted a 4-2 record in duals so far this season. Their two losses have been to No. 8 Oklahoma, 28-7, and Bloomsburg, 21-12. The Bulls have also competed in three tournaments, with their best showing being a 10th place finish in the 30-team field in Reno.
The Flames and Bulls have one common opponent, as the Bulls defeated Binghamton, 24-12 in their first action of the new year, while the Flames dropped a 25-13 match with Binghamton on Dec. 3.
Buffalo's lone ranked grappler is redshirt junior Desi Green at 149 pounds. Green is already 19-3 this season and has taken first place titles at Buffalo's own UB Open (Nov. 7), the Oklahoma Gold Classic (Nov. 13) and the Davidson Open (Dec. 4).
Overall, Liberty has grappled to a 6-3 dual record. They opened the season by posting a 3-1 mark at the Terrapin Duals (Nov. 6), including knocking off Maryland, 21-17. Two more victories came against Cumberland (Tenn.), 40-3, and Princeton, 28-15, when the Flames split tri-matches on two occasions, and their final win was a defeat of Campbell, 38-3.
Liberty's latest results include a 27th place finish in the 32-team field at the Southern Scuffle, and a 16th place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions, which included 30 teams.
Redshirt junior Scott Clymer has led the way of late for the Flames at 149 pounds, posting a fourth-place finish in Reno and producing a 4-2 mark in the Southern Scuffle. The Germansville, Pa., native leads the squad with 15 overall victories, while also producing the fourth-most dual points this season for Liberty, with 19.
At 165 pounds, Chad Porter also competed in day two of the Southern Scuffle and posted a 3-2 mark in the event, following a sixth-place finish in Reno. After missing the opening weekend of competition due to a finger injury, Porter has come on strong, ranking third on the squad with 10 victories. Six of those 10 victories have come by Porter pinning his opponent, which leads the team in that category.
Redshirt senior Josh Pelletier looks to return to competition after missing the Reno Tournament of Champions due to illness and the Southern Scuffle after his travel was halted due to the East Coast snow storm. The heavyweight leads the squad in dual points scored with 31 and is second on the squad with seven dual victories.
Aaron Thompson has been strong in dual events this year, posting an 8-1 record and scoring 30 dual points for the team while competing at 197 pounds. Thompson's eight dual wins leads the team.
With their trip to Hampton, this marks the Flames fourth appearance in the Duals in the last five years.
Last year's event was the first time the Flames went without a victory in the Duals, posting a 0-3 record. Liberty opened by dropping a 36-6 meet with No. 4 Oklahoma State before facing another ranked team, No. 23 Old Dominion, who was upset by Clarion in the opening round. The Flames were defeated 27-6 by the Monarchs, before dropping their final contest to Drexel, 24-11.
Coverage for the 31st Virginia Duals is available in a variety of ways this year.
LibertyFlames.com will once again provide the most up-to-date information on the Liberty Wrestling squad through the day with a live blog from the Hampton Coliseum. The dual format will allow for in-depth coverage from bout to bout of the duals.
Fans not able to read the blog throughout the action can get updates by following the LibertyFlames Twitter page, which will provide updates as well.
The Virginia Duals official webpage will provide live updates during the day as well, as they use Trackwrestling to compile and post their results. With this coverage, fans are able to get updates via text messages or e-mail.
Additionally, USA Wrestling/The Mat.com will be providing live video coverage from the Virginia Duals once again this season. Streaming up to four bouts at one time, USA Wrestling's Jayson Bryant will be on the call, while also having guests through the day. Coverage will begin around 9 a.m. on Friday. Links will be available when the event is closer.
Liberty's Probable Starters at Virginia Duals:
125 – Robert Jillard
133 – Joe Pantaleo or T. J. Mitchell
141 – Seth Hicks or Joey Montgomery
149 – Scott Clymer or Eric Reger or Rich Bushby
157 – Julian Colon or Peter Crawford
165 – Chad Porter or Eli Sanchez
174 – Royal Brettrager II
184 – Marcus Nielson
197 – Aaron Thompson
285 – Josh Pelletier