Pinning down national titles: Men’s and women’s wrestling leave nationals with multiple accolades

The Liberty University men’s and women’s wrestling teams competed in the NCWA National Championships last week during Liberty’s spring break in Bossier City, Louisiana, where they both put together strong performances that led to a runner-up finish for the men’s team and a ninth place result out of 35 for the women’s team.

“I thought we wrestled very well as a team,” Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “The fact that we were a solid second place and still nipping at (Bellarmine’s) heels, I think we wrestled very well. I’m very proud of them.”

Castro believes the success of the program can be attributed to the team’s motto, “as one.” 

“Even though we are an individual and team sport, our culture is fixated on the aspect of oneness,” Castro said. “We compete as one, meaning that what transpires outside of the mat and on the mat is all reflective as part of us as a unit, and so we’ve been trying to develop that culture over the last 10 years.”

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On the men’s side, the Liberty team was led by graduate students Josiah Murphy (197 pounds) and Rick Weaver (285 pounds), who both won their third consecutive national titles in their weight classes and helped lead the Flames to the second overall team finish.

“Three years to do that requires a lot of commitment,” Castro said. “I think that in Josiah’s case, coming from such a limited background in wrestling — I think he was junior in high school (when he started) — that was a lot of pressure on him, and for him to do it a third time was a phenomenal feat, and we’re just so proud of him for doing that.”

Weaver also repeated as a champion for the third time in his collegiate career despite missing time in the fall while playing for the Liberty football team.

“For (Weaver) to repeat three times, especially coming off the football field and still being able to come back and compete at the end of the year for us in (a class that) many believe (is) one of the tougher weight classes this year, it’s very impressive,” Castro said. “He had to battle the obstacle of losing 71 pounds from the time after the bowl game passed to the time he stepped on the mat because the weight class is 285 and below.”

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The Liberty women’s wrestling team finished in the top third of the field. It was led by sophomore Claire Wortz, who scored a fifth place finish in the tournament for her weight class, while freshman Anna-Mari Servin and senior Maile Ka’ahanui finished in sixth place in their weight classes. 

“We’re very proud of our women’s team,” Castro said. “It’s a young program in its fourth year. Most of the girls on the team are pretty new to the sport, and they came to college and saw the women’s wrestling program, and they said they wanted to try their hand at it.” 

Castro gave a tremendous amount of praise for the coaching staff as well, which helped the women’s team get to where it is today. 

“I think it’s a testament to the fact that our women’s coaches are committed to the girls and they’re very good at developing young ladies to be competitive in the sport,” Castro said. “They did a good job at the national tournament; they battled hard against teams that have a lot more experience than them, so I think the ceiling is high for the women’s wrestling program.”

Almy is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

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