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Flames Host VMI in the Vines Center on Sunday

February 12, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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T. J. Mitchell has won his last four bouts, and seven of his last eight at 133 pounds.

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Coming off its 21-19 victory over George Mason on Thursday evening, Liberty wrestling doesn't have much time to recover, as they welcome the VMI Keydets to the Vines Center on Sunday afternoon for a 3 p.m. dual.

The Flames' victory over the Patriots upped their win streak to six dual victories in a row. They will seek a seventh straight win on Sunday, that would be a best for the program since the 1980-81 season. While head coach Jesse Castro's squad has rolled off six dual wins in a row in four of his five years at the helm, seven or more has never been accomplished during a single season.

The best streak for Castro which spans multiple years is 10 in a row, as the program won six straight duals to finish 2009 and then began 2010 by taking four in a row.

During the 1980-81 season, Bob Bonheim's squad went 11-0 in NAIA competition. That season was part of a 33-dual win streak from 1979-1981 for the Flames program, which also included competition in the National Christian College Athletic Association, which Liberty was a part of from 1975-80.

This will be the Flames first competition in the Vines Center this season. While Liberty boasts a 15-5-1 home record in the last five seasons, it has only produced a 5-4-1 record inside of the Vines Center. Last season, it dropped all three contests at the facility. Their last win in the Vines Center came on Feb. 19, 2009 with a 24-18 win over Appalachian State.

The series with VMI has been one-sided as of late, with the Flames taking the last eight, including four since the program was reinstated for the 2006-07 season. The Keydets' closest defeat during the stretch was a 24-18 decision on Dec. 9, 1993.

In the last four meetings, Liberty has held VMI under 13 team points, with the Keydets not reaching double-digits in the last two duals. On Feb. 19, 2009 the Flames were victorious 38-9, while they won 29-7 on Jan. 27, 2010.

VMI brings a 4-7 record into Sunday's dual, after losing 26-9 to Appalachian State on Friday evening. The Flames and Keydets have both faced George Mason and Virginia this season, resulting in the same outcomes.

Both teams defeated George Mason, with each using a victory in the final bout to come from behind. The Keydets' advantage was 20-16 after a pin from No. 15 Josh Wine at heavyweight, while the Flames won 21-19 after Aaron Thompson took a 4-1 decision at heavyweight. Both teams struggled against Virginia, with VMI losing 41-3 and Liberty dropping the decision, 35-3.

The aforementioned Josh Wine headlines the Keydets' lineup with a No. 15 ranking from InterMat. The VMI senior is 15-5 overall this season and boasts an 8-3 dual meet record. Wine has also placed in two tournaments this season, finishing fourth at the Southern Scuffle and taking the heavyweight title at the recent All-Academy Championships.

If Josh Pelletier takes the mat for the Flames at heavyweight, this will be a rematch from last year's dual. Wine came away with the 3-1 victory in the bout, earning the decision.

Matt Brock's win on Friday night gave him his 16th victory of the year for the Keydets. The sophomore 174-pounder has only dropped three dual bouts, posting a 7-3 record. With Nielson listed as the Flames' probable starter at 174 pounds, this would be the second time they've met this season. Brock took the earlier meeting in the Southern Scuffle with a 5-2 decision over the Flames' freshman.

With Aaron Kelley's win by fall at 197 pounds against George Mason, the redshirt senior lengthened his winning streak to six bouts. Five of those bouts have ended before regulation, with Kelley winning three by fall and two by technical fall. The Mineral Wells, W. Va., native is 4-2 in his career against Keydet grapplers.

T. J. Mitchell is beginning a streak of his own, as he has won his last four outings, and seven of his last eight. This includes a second-place finish at the Appalachian Open, where the redshirt junior competed unattached.

Liberty's 157-pounder, Julian Colon comes into the dual sporting wins in three of his last four, including two wins by fall. The team co-captain is 13-11 this season, 6-5 in duals.

Fans not able to travel to Liberty's Vines Center can track live stats from the dual with VMI, available through the NWCA Live Scorebook. A video stream will also be available through the Big South Network. The cost to watch the single dual is $3.95.

Updates will also be available on the LibertyFlames Twitter page. Fans wishing to track Liberty Athletics' coverage will need to "follow" the LibertyFlames page by clicking the link at the top of the page.

Probable Starters for Liberty vs. VMI
Liberty (12-6)
125 – Robert Jillard (17-9)
133 – T. J. Mitchell (15-13)
141 – Joey Montgomery (10-9)
149 – Peter Crawford (7-10)
157 – Julian Colon (13-11)
165 – Chad Porter (17-8) or Eli Sanchez (5-15)
174 – Marcus Nielson (2-7)
184 – Aaron Kelley (9-3)
197 – Aaron Thompson (12-11)
285 – Josh Pelletier (14-6) or Jake Wright (0-3)

VMI (4-7):
125 – John Pope (6-10) or Charles Gray (8-7)
133 – Luke Todd (7-11)
141 – David Yost (10-13) or Ryan Goodsell (0-13)
149 – Mike Long (9-10)
157 – Mike Burnett (2-3)
165 – Ted Gottwald (7-15)
174 – Matt Brock (16-11)
184 – John Dommert (8-14) or Evan Dill (2-9)
197 – Ronnie Ellsworth (8-7)
285 – #15 Josh Wine (15-5)