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Kelley, Thompson Key Flames Victory
Liberty gained a pair of key wins from Aaron Kelley and Aaron Thompson at their non-traditional weight classes on Thursday night, erasing a deficit and completing a come-from-behind 21-19 victory over George Mason in the Schilling Center. Each wrestler was bumped up one spot in the lineup, with Kelley moving to 197 pounds, and Thompson jumping up to heavyweight for his first career bout at the position.
The Liberty victory improves the Flames' dual meet record to 12-6, while keeping them a perfect 2-0 at home this season. They have now posted three consecutive victories over the Patriots and hold a 9-7 all-time edge in the series. George Mason is still seeking its first victory of the year, with the loss dropping the visitors' record to 0-19.
The programs have had a history of close meetings, as two of the last three have come down to the final bout of the competition.
The Flames began the dual meet with a 6-0 advantage after George Mason forfeited at the 125-pound weight class.
T. J. Mitchell took the mat for Liberty at 133 pounds, earning a 2-1 edge through one period of action. Mitchell scored a takedown in the second to maintain his one-point lead against John Delgado, entering the final two minutes with a 4-3 advantage. After starting the final period in the down position, Mitchell earned an escape to end the bout with a 5-3 decision, and give the Flames a 9-0 lead.
Denny Herndon put George Mason on the board with a 12-5 decision at 141 pounds. After scoring three takedowns in the opening period, Herndon earned a 6-2 advantage. Hicks' only points in the bout came from multiple escapes, while Herndon added more takedowns during the final two periods to win 12-5, pulling the Patriots within six, 9-3.
Despite taking a 2-1 lead into the second, the Flames' Peter Crawford fell behind 10-2 through two periods after Brandon Bucher scored two three-point near falls in the second in the 149-pound bout. Bucher added three more back points in the final period, earning the 16-2 major decision and cutting the deficit to just two for George Mason, 9-7.
After a scoreless first period at 157 pounds, the Flames' Julian Colon earned the quick edge in the second behind an escape. Colon and Jaaziah Bethea then finished the period knotted, two-all leading into the final stanza. After Bethea escaped to take the edge, Colon earned a takedown with 31 seconds remaining in the bout to take back the lead. Colon then held on for the 4-3 win, pushing the lead back up to five for the Flames, 12-7.
In the 165-pound bout, Chad Porter gave Jimmy Kaden a one-point advantage in the first period with an illegal hold. Porter then grabbed the lead late in the second by scoring on a reversal. To open the final two minutes of action, Kaden scored his own reversal to take the lead back, 3-2. Porter escaped to even the bout, but Kaden held 2:19 of riding time to take the 4-3 decision. This edged the Patriots within two again, 12-10, and gave the Patriots an upset victory in the bout, snapping Porter's six-bout winning streak in the process.
Marcus Nielson struck first with a takedown at 174 pounds for the Flames, but Greg Scott scored two takedowns in the first two periods to gain a 6-2 edge leading into the final frame of action. Nielson scored four points in the final period, but Scott maintained control to win 7-6, giving the Patriots their first lead of the night, 13-12.
George Mason gained a seven point advantage after the Flames forfeited at 184 pounds, bringing the team totals to 19-12.
Kelley bumped up from his traditional 184-pound weight class to compete at 197 against Jimmy Webb. Kelley scored a takedown in the opening period, but the entire seven minutes of action weren't needed, as Kelly pinned Webb 3:28 into the bout, pulling the Flames within one, 19-18 with just one bout to go in the dual match.
Kelley's victory is his fifth consecutive that has been completed without going the full seven minutes of action. The redshirt senior has earned three wins by fall and two technical falls in those bouts.
Thompson then bumped up to 285 pounds from his normal 197-pound weight, with the overall dual on the line in his first time competing at heavyweight. After nearly picking up a takedown in the closing seconds of the first against Hunter Manspile, Thompson scored an escape to go up 1-0 to open the second period.
Thompson collected another point late in the second as Manspile received his second warning for stalling. After deferring in the second, Manspile chose down to begin the final period.
Manspile escaped with under a minute to go in the bout. As a scramble for position ensued in the closing seconds of the bout, Thompson secured the victory for himself and the Flames with a takedown just before time expired. Thompson's final edge was a 4-1 decision, giving Liberty the 21-19 come-from-behind win.
The Flames turn around quickly as they host VMI on Sunday afternoon in a 3 p.m. match. The dual will be contested in the Vines Center.