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Liberty Defeats Bucknell, 24-15
Liberty used victories in the opening three weight classes Sunday afternoon, en route to a 24-15 win over Bucknell inside of the Bison's Davis Gymnasium, snapping a three dual losing streak to Bucknell in the process.
Last time the Flames knocked off the Bison was a tightly contested 25-24 victory by the Flames in Lewisburg, Pa., on January 19, 2007, which was each program's first year back on the mats after reinstatement.
Each team returned to the mats on Sunday after competing in duals on Friday evening. The Flames dropped a contest to Navy, 34-6, while Bucknell knocked off Old Dominion, 20-16.
The win improves the Flames to a 7-6 dual meet record and a 3-2 mark while in opponents' venues. The loss drops the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association member Bucknell to 4-9 on the season.
Starting the dual at 125 pounds, Robert Jillard posted his 13th win on the year in a high-action bout where control was always hard to maintain. Between the two grapplers, they combined for five reversals in their seven minutes of action.
Facing a 2009 NCAA qualifier in Derek Reber, Jillard scored two reversals in the first period, along with a three-point near fall to take the early 7-5 lead. In the second time frame, Jillard built upon his lead. After escaping to begin the period, he added a takedown and two back points. Reber scored a reversal to close the period, pulling the score to 12-7.
In the final stanza, Reber scored another reversal, but would not score again, giving Jillard the 12-9 decision and the Flames an early 3-0 lead in the overall match.
At 133 pounds, T. J. Mitchell earned his first win by fall of the year, defeating Bob Hauser at the 4:22 mark of the bout and extending the Flames lead to 9-0.
Seth Hicks gave Liberty a third consecutive win and a 12-0 lead on the afternoon by defeating Zac Hancock, 4-2. After a scoreless opening period, Hicks scored most of his points in the second time frame. After starting in the down position, the Bakersfield, Calif., native escaped and scored a takedown, earning him a 3-0 lead.
Hancock scored a takedown halfway through the final two minutes, leading to another Hicks escape. A battle for control ensued in the last 20 seconds, but Hicks held off Hancock to secure the victory.
With the Flames up 12-0 through three bouts, Liberty knew they could not let its guard down, as Bucknell trailed Old Dominion 13-0 on Friday evening and still came away with the dual win.
At 149 pounds, the Bison's All-American and No. 6 ranked grappler, Kevin LeValley tried to ignite the comeback, pinning the Flames' Peter Crawford. Crawford hung tough with LeValley, however, with the pin coming at the 5:47 mark of the bout.
With the score now 12-6 in favor of Liberty, Bucknell scored another victory behind a 10-5 decision from senior Brantley Hooks over Julian Colon, closing the gap to three.
Redshirt senior Chad Porter quickly responded for the Flames while facing Corey Lear, who was victorious in this matchup last year. Porter turned the tides on the 18-bout winner and won by fall 2:36 into the first period for his 13th win on the year and 98th of his career. The pin extended the lead back to 18-9 in favor of Liberty.
In an all-freshman battle at 174 pounds, Royal Brettrager II faced off against the Bison's Stephen McPeek. After each tallied points with a takedown and an escape, they moved to the second knotted at 3. McPeek pulled ahead through two, scoring two takedowns and an escape to Brettrager's one escape.
Brettrager escaped to begin the second, but McPeek scored a takedown later in the stanza. In the closing seconds, Brettrager almost came back behind a reversal and two near-fall points, but time ran out. McPeek also added 1:29 of riding time for the 11-9 edge which pulled the dual team score to 18-12.
With the Bison threatening again, redshirt senior Aaron Kelley stepped to the mat for the Flames looking to stretch out the lead with his bout at 184 pounds. After Kelley fell behind 2-1 through the opening period, a scoreless second followed, but Kelley was able to gain a riding time advantage after deferring and Rob Waltko chose the down position.
To close out the bout, Kelley escaped early and held off several shots from his competitor. With the score being 2-2, Kelley's riding time gave him a bonus point to earn a 3-2 decision and extend the lead back to 9, 21-12.
Twenty-bout winner Jay Hahn took the mat for Bucknell against Aaron Thompson at 197 pounds. Hahn was able to build a 5-0 lead through two and close with a takedown and riding time to claim the 8-1 decision.
With the team score 21-15, Bucknell had to rely on Joe McMullen who normally competes at 184 pounds, to get a pin against the Flames redshirt senior, Josh Pelletier at the heavyweight position, just to tie the match. The Flames' Pelletier gave McMullen no chance, however taking the bout with a 3-2 decision, putting the final tally at 24-15 for the Liberty victory.
Liberty will once again have a small lull in competition, as its next bout will take place Feb. 2 when they travel to UNC Greensboro in a dual scheduled for 7 p.m.
This will begin a busy schedule for the Flames as they have nine duals in the month of February, including four matches in the East Regional Duals on Feb. 4 in Millersville, Pa.