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Flames Look to Dominate East Regional Duals
Coming off back-to-back dual victories, the Liberty Flames are getting into a groove as they are set to participate in the East Regional Duals on Friday in Millersville, Pa. The three-dual event for the Flames is hosted by Millersville in Pucillo Gymnasium and is slated for a noon start with five-minute breaks between the later rounds.
The Flames will prepare to take on East Regional foes Sacred Heart, Millersville and Gardner-Webb in the event. Friday's event will familiarize the teams with each other before the 2011 NCAA East Regional Championships, which determines bids for the 2011 NCAA National Championships. Campbell is also in the event, but the Flames will not face the Camels head on, as the two have met earlier in the year. Liberty won that matchup, 38-3, Dec. 11 inside the Schilling Center.
Last year's event did not declare an official champion because not all teams were able to make the event due to inclement weather. Liberty and Campbell ended up splitting into two squads, while Gardner-Webb competed as one team in Buies Creek, N.C. The Flames' A squad posted a 2-0 record, while the B team went 1-1 in the modified event.
Liberty is the two-time defending champions, going 5-1 in 2009 and 4-0 in 2008. Since 2007, their first year competing in the duals, the Flames have produced a 14-2 record. Their lone defeats came to Duquesne in 2007 (25-23), and Millersville in 2009 (25-21).
Redshirt senior Chad Porter (165 pounds) is set up for a successful day of competition, as the Parkersburg, W. Va., native is 9-0 in his contests at the East Regional Duals. If Porter competes and wins in each of the three duals, he will have 102 career victories.
Currently sitting at 99 career victories after his win at UNC Greensboro, Porter would then be in the Gold Level of the Eagle Medal Club, which honors Liberty wrestlers with 100+ career victories, and also surpass his head coach, Jesse Castro, in career wins. Castro grappled for the Flames from 1977 to 1981 and posted 101 career victories in a Liberty singlet.
If the Flames do pick up three wins, Castro will reach his own milestone, moving into second-place on Liberty's career coaching wins list. With a 59-43-2 career record at the helm of the program, three wins would give Castro 62 career wins, passing past coach, Don Shuler. Shuler had 61 victories in eight seasons (1987-94) as the leader of the Liberty wrestling program. The program's all-time coaching wins leader is Bob Bonheim, who led the Flames to a 118-34-1 record while serving for 12 years (1975-1986).
The Flames enter the event having won more duals than the other four teams combined. Liberty is 8-6, while Campbell (1-14), Gardner-Webb (3-12-1), Millersville (1-6) and Sacred Heart (1-11) combine for a 6-43-1 mark this season.
The Flames open competition against Sacred Heart, who is in their first year competing in the NCAA East Region. The Pioneers come to the East Region after formerly competing in the Colonial Athletic Association. The meeting will be the first between the programs.
After a bye in the second round, the Flames will take on host, Millersville. The Marauders' lone win this season came against Sacred Heart. Millersville is led by junior Shane Smith, who is a two-time East Region champion at 174 pound. Smith is 22-9 this season, with 14 wins by fall. The Marauders hold a 3-2 edge over the Flames in the series history.
The final matchup of the day faces Liberty off with Gardner-Webb. The Runnin' Bulldogs are led by Travis Porter (18-13, 197 pounds), brothers Alex (20-9, 157 pounds) and Ryan Medved (14-9, 149 pounds) and Richie Spicel (16-10, 141 pounds). Each of these grapplers are redshirt sophomores for Gardner-Webb. The Flames are 4-0 all time against the Runnin' Bulldogs.
While live stats and video will be available for all Millersville matches, complete Liberty coverage can be followed through a live blog from inside of Pucillo Gymnasium. As has been the case throughout the year, the blog will be interactive and encourages questions and comments from fans following along. Look for blog coverage to begin around 11:30 a.m., prior to the first round of competition, right here on LibertyFlames.com.
2011 East Regional Duals:
Round 1 – 12 p.m.
Mat 1: Millersville vs. Campbell
Mat 2: Sacred Heart vs. Liberty
Mat 1: Millersville vs. Gardner-Webb
Mat 2: Sacred Heart vs. Campbell
Mat 1: Millersville vs. Liberty
Mat 2: Sacred Heart vs. Gardner-Webb
Mat 1: Gardner-Webb vs. Liberty
Liberty's Probable Starters (subject to change):
125 – Robert Jillard or Joel Stafford
133 – T. J. Mitchell or Nathan Nelson
141 – Seth Hicks or Joey Montgomery
149 – Peter Crawford
157 – Julian Colon
165 – Chad Porter
174 – Royal Brettrager II
184 – Aaron Kelley or Marcus Nielson
197 – Aaron Thompson
HWT – Josh Pelletier or Jake Wright