Flames wrestlers win 8 weight classes to clinch 9th MAC title
February 29, 2020 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's men's wrestling team had a record-high eight individual champions — from 149 pounds through heavyweight — and won the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) Championship tournament for the ninth time in as many tries, Saturday at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The Flames trailed state rival Apprentice School in the point standings for most of the day before steamrolling over the Builders in the championship finals, winning both head-to-head battles at 184 pounds and heavyweight. In addition to its eight champions, Liberty had four runner-up finishers (at 165, 174, 197, and 235) and qualified 18 wrestlers to compete at the March 12-14 NCWA National Championships in Allen, Texas, with top-five showings.
"I was surprised how close (Apprentice) kept it, but once we got to the end of the finals, we started pulling away and ended up winning by 30 points," said senior 197-pounder Austin Amos, who won one of four all-Liberty finals, by forfeit over sophomore Blake Barrick. "We can always trust our big guys. If the dual or the tournament is close coming down to the (heavyweights), it's in good hands."
Amos is a two-time defending national champion ranked No. 1 at 197 pounds with a 30-4 record. Two other reigning champions are sandwiched around him — senior 184-pounder Sam Karel, who pinned the Builders' Wes Sorey in 5 minutes, 33 seconds, and junior Jeff Allen, who won his match by forfeit over teammate David Smith.
Allen only needed to wrestle for 16 seconds to defend his conference crown, winning his first and last matches by forfeit after pinning Apprentice's Vandan Schmidt 16 seconds into their semifinal bout.
|Flames sophomore Ian McIlhenny placed third at 149.|
Junior Chad Cantrell bumped up from 149 to replace a fourth returning national champion, injured senior Andrew Burgette, at 157 pounds and edged JMU's Calvin Kopstein, 3-2. Then at 165, in the only all-Flames final actually contested on the mat, junior Joe Scott scored a takedown in overtime to edge sophomore David Cox, 6-4.
"That was a high-level match, the best match of the day, I thought," Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro said. "That might be, conceivably, a national final (preview)."
At heavyweight, freshman Rick Weaver won one of the most entertaining bouts of the tournament, pinning Apprentice's Peter Cortapasso at the 5:30 mark after a rough and tumble match that included plenty of throws, rolls, and back points.
"I do whatever I can to get him down on his back," Weaver said. "God has placed me in a position where He's allowed me to use my body to not only glorify Him, but win a lot of matches and it's a blessing."
"He was firing on all cylinders today," Amos added. "He looked really good in the finals."
Weaver has thrived in his first season with the Flames, ranked second in the nation at 30-4.
"I'm just enjoying the culture of the team and everyone around us, which is allowing all of us to grow closer together," Weaver said. "As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another, and that verse goes with the team. We all look after one another and … leave it all on the mat. We all wrestled hard and God used us out here."
Amos is looking forward to his last NCWA Grand Nationals and the opportunity to three-peat, both personally and with the rest of the Flames, who have won three of the past four Grand National championships (in 2015, 2018, and 2019).
"We're a team and we're together, but we all know what the prize is at the end of the year and what the goal is," he said. "We do what we have to do to get to the goal and get to the top of the podium, as an individual and as a team. We want to go out with a bang and go out on top and really leave it all out on the mat."
125: Colton Messick (App) d. Dillon Messick (App), by forfeit; 133: Kolin Johnson (App) m.d. Rahsun Lawrence (ECU), 15-4; 141: Wesley Hollingsworth (ECU) d. Shalek Colon (App), 4-2; 149: Michael Gowen (Lib) d. Christian Govan (ECU), medical forfeit, 2:16; 157: Chad Cantrell (Lib) d. Calvin Kopstein (JMU), 3-2; 165: Joe Scott (Lib) d. David Scott (Lib), 6-4; 174: Cody Richmond (Lib) d. Luke Ely (Lib), by forfeit; 184: Sam Karel (Lib) p. Wes Sorey (App), 5:33; 197: Austin Amos (Lib) d. Blake Barrick (Lib), by forfeit; 235: Jeff Allen (Lib) d. David Smith (Lib), by forfeit; 285: Rick Weaver (Lib) p. Peter Cortapasso (App), 5:30.
125: Tristan Walls (Lib) p. Kristopher Smith (App), 4:44; 133: Raekwon Jackson (App) p. Chip Brothers (Ten), 5:49; 141: Charles Hudson (Lib) p. Nikolas Vargas (JMU) 1:16; 149: Ian McIlhenny (Lib) d. Thomas Allison (App) 8-2; 157: Bryson Woody (App) p. William Heath (App), 1:07; 165: Adam Aldridge (ECU) d. A.J. Deutel (App), medical forfeit; 174: David McElravy (App) d. Jordan Patterson (JMU), by forfeit; 184: Austin Connelly (Ten) p. Ethan Martin (Lib), 3:41; 197: Ryan Thomas (JMU) p. Sean Gillespie (Lib), 2:14; 235: Vandan Schmidt (App) p. Kofi Sackey (ECU), 1:50; 285: Thomas Hudson (ECU) p. Alex Hicks (Lib), 3:22.
Team scores: Liberty 204.5, Apprentice 174.5, East Carolina 103.5, Clemson 65, JMU 59, Tennessee 51, VMI 24.5.