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Flames Take Down Spartans, 24-16
Liberty took decisions in the opening three bouts on Wednesday afternoon and never looked back, defeating UNC Greensboro inside its own Fleming Gymnasium, 24-16.
The win improves the Flames' dual record to 8-6 overall, along with upping their road mark to 4-2. It also snaps the Spartans' two-match win streak against the Flames, pulling the series record between the programs to 3-2 in favor of UNC Greensboro. Liberty's last win against UNC Greensboro came at home on Feb. 5, 2008. The loss drops UNC Greensboro to 5-8 on the year.
Liberty jumped out to a quick start behind a 4-3 decision from freshman Robert Jillard at 125 pounds. Jillard and Manny Ramirez were knotted after one period, with Jillard striking first with a takedown and Ramirez scoring with a reversal. The second period saw no scoring. In the final two minutes, Jillard began in the down position and took a two-point advantage after scoring on a reversal. Ramirez escaped later in the period, but Jillard held off the Spartan for the 4-3 win. The win is Jillard's 14th victory of the year.
With a 3-0 team lead already, T. J. Mitchell scored the second straight decision for the Flames at 133 pounds, taking his bout 8-2 over Robert Gribschaw. Mitchell gained a 4-1 edge through one period behind two takedowns. After no points in the second period, Mitchell added an escape in the final stanza after starting in the down position. He then tacked on a takedown along with 2:32 of riding time. Gribschaw added an escape in the third for the final score of 8-2.
Seth Hicks continued the momentum for the Flames with a 7-6 decision at 141 pounds. Hicks' opponent Jamel Johnson scored first, earning a takedown in the opening period. The two found themselves tied, 4-4, through two periods, after Hicks scored on a three-point near fall and Johnson earned a last-second escape. Johnson also was awarded a penalty point earlier in the period. After starting in the down position, Hicks escaped to take the early edge in the final period. Johnson grabbed the lead back with a takedown, but another Hicks escape along with riding time gave the Bakersfield, Calif., native the win for the Flames, putting Liberty up, 9-0.
At 149 pounds, Peter Crawford faced No. 16 Ivan Lopouchanski. The Spartan scored at will in the opening period, earning six takedowns and two back points, giving him a 14-5 edge through one. He put the match to a finish in the second, winning by fall at the 3:55 mark of the bout and putting the Spartans on the board.
Julian Colon took the mat for the Flames at 157 pounds, looking to hold off a Spartan rally from Justin Rice. Colon did just that, and gave the Flames momentum once again with a pin in the third period. Colon held a 10-3 lead going into the final two minutes, but put the bout away at the 6:26 mark, extending the lead to 15-6.
In the 165-pound bout, Chad Porter got his fourth straight win from a 5-0 blanking of Brett Miller. The win also pulls Porter's career win total to 99, just one away from being in the Gold Level of the Eagle Medal Club, which honors Liberty grapplers with 100+ career victories. Porter controlled the bout throughout, which showed in his 3:59 of riding time. In addition to that bonus point, Porter tallied a takedown in the first and a reversal in the final period after starting in the down position. Porter's decision pushed the Flames' lead to 18-6.
Royal Brettrager II and Byron Sigmon had a tight match at 174 pounds, with Brettrager II nearly coming from behind for the victory. Sigmon jumped to a 6-3 lead through one behind a takedown, a two-point near fall, and a reversal, to Brettrager's reversal and escape. Brettrager pulled the score to 7-5 after two periods. In the closing frame, Brettrager took the lead with a minute to go behind an escape and a takedown. However, Sigmon tacked on a reversal and two back points in the closing seconds of the bout, earning an 11-9 decision, and pulling the Spartans to within nine, 18-9.
At 184 pounds, redshirt senior Aaron Kelley was able to put the overall match out of reach, pinning Elijah Adams at the 3:30 mark of the bout. The pin extended the visitors' lead to 24-9 with just two bouts remaining.
The Spartans closed out the match by taking the final bouts. At 197 pounds, Caylor Williams defeated Aaron Thompson with a major decision, 8-0, while Peter Sturgeon picked up a 3-1 decision over the Flames' Josh Pelletier at heavyweight. UNC Greensboro's closing victories pulled the final score to 24-16 in favor of the Flames.
Head Coach Jesse Castro commented on the victory over the 2010 Southern Conference champions by saying, "Going into the match the coaching staff knew it would be a hard-fought match. I'm really proud of the way the guys picked up their intensity. We feel like the wrestlers are buying into the system and we're seeing the dividends of that."
The Liberty wrestling squad now heads to Millersville, Pa., where they will compete in the East Regional Duals on Friday. The duals, hosted by Millersville, will act as a preview of the NCAA East Regional Championships, which is where the Flames will have the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Liberty serves as host for the 2011 East Regional Championships on March 6, inside the Vines Center.