Flames finish ninth at Citrus Classic in preparation for NCWA National Duals
Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team finished ninth out of 16 teams with 65.0 points at the Citrus Classic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the team’s final competition in 2022 held Dec. 29-30 at the Broward County Convention Center.
The Flames finished behind Augsburg, Castleton, UNC Pembroke, Roanoke College, Cornell, Ferrum, NYU, and John Carroll, respectively.
Liberty, which is currently No. 1 in NCWA rankings, was the only NCWA program present at the competition.
Approximately 400 wrestlers, many competing at the NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, and NAIA levels, hit the mats in Fort Lauderdale.
Augsburg (Minn.), the defending NCAA Division III national champion, concluded the two-day bout with 219.5 points, far exceeding all of its opponents. Castleton (Vt.) finished second with 170.0 points.
Liberty’s best showing of the tournament came from junior Rick Weaver, who placed third at 285 pounds. His clinched third place after a medical forfeit by the University of the Ozarks’ Ka’Ron Lewis.
Fellow Flames heavyweight Jefferey Allen finished two spots below him after winning his fifth-place final by fall (2:46) over Abbas Abdulrahman from Castleton.
At 165 pounds, junior David Over defeated Cornell’s Casey Allen by medical forfeit for fifth place.
Liberty’s only other top-six finish came from senior Dante Minnino at 125 pounds after he dropped a major decision to NYU’s Taisai Karachi in the fifth-place bout, 11-3.
Following the event, Head Coach Jesse Castro expressed pride at how the team competed in the tournament and said that the Flames will use the experience from Fort Lauderdale to improve for the future.
“This was our toughest tournament of the year for our team thus far,” Castro said. “(I’m) very proud of the team. It was a very physically demanding event that will sharpen and harden us for the important dual meets coming up.”
Liberty will begin competition in the New Year when it travels to Kentucky next weekend for the Jan. 6-7 NCWA National Duals in search of its fifth consecutive title. This competition will also feature the return of former 157-pound NCWA Grand National champion Chad Cantrell, who rested during the Citrus Invitational. Cantrell’s return should provide an added boost to the Flames’ already strong roster.
Liberty’s performance at the National Duals will affect its standing at the March 9-11 NCWA Grand Nationals in Puerto Rico, with the top teams in Louisville earning bonus points toward that season-ending championship tournament set for March 9-11.
“If we are to match last year’s national tournament we are going to have to see past the bumps and bruises that come with a combative sport like wrestling,” Castro said. “(I’m) looking forward to getting this next portion of the season under way.”
By Christian Shields/Staff Writer