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    March 14, 2020 Allen, Texas RSS |

    The domination continued for Liberty University's men's wrestling team on Saturday night at the Allen (Texas) Event Center, where the three-time defending NCWA National Duals champions became the first program since Grand Valley State University (from 2006-08) to claim three consecutive NCWA Grand National Tournament team trophies.

     Senior Cendall Manley reaped her fourth NCWA national title, this time at 155 pounds. (Photo by Luke Bobbey)

    On an adjacent mat, Lady Flames senior Cendall Manley captured her fourth consecutive national championship and was named the women's tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler. She scored a 6-0 decision over Megan Thomas of women's team champion Schreiner (170.5 points) in the 155-pound final to lead Liberty to its second straight fourth-place team finish with 77.5.

    The Lady Flames sent a record nine wrestlers to nationals in only the third season in program history. The Flames, meanwhile, carried more than twice as many competitors with 19, who racked up 228 points to pull away from runner-up Grays Harbor (146), Springfield Tech Community College (137), Apprentice School (104), and the rest of the 82 teams represented in the tournament.

    Of course, Grand Valley State — which is the only program with more Grand National titles (five) than the Flames — and 2018 and 2019 runner-up Apprentice were no longer in the field after being summoned back to Michigan and Virginia, respectively, on Friday due to travel restrictions enforced by their schools' administrators out of concern over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

     The Collegiate Cup men's wrestling trophy will bear Liberty's name on it for the fourth time in six seasons.

    That weakened the tournament considerably, though the top-ranked Flames — who have now won four of the past six team titles — would have been favorites even with a complete field on hand.

     Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro shouts encouragement to a Flames wrestler from the corner.

    Liberty advanced a program record eight wrestlers to the championship finals and five were crowned individual champions, matching its performance from last season, which tied Grand Valley State's record-setting total.

    Starting at 157 pounds, where junior Chad Cantrell edged JMU's Calvin Kopstein, 6-5, in a rematch of their Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) tournament championship bout, which he also won, 3-2, the Flames had at least one wrestler represented in the finals of every weight class.

    At 165 pounds, they had two, with junior Joe Scott winning his MAC final rematch with sophomore teammate David Cox, 3-2. Liberty had both the second- and third-place finishers at 171 pounds where senior Cody Richmond, appearing in his first final, dropped a 14-3 decision to Central Florida's Clay Perry and senior Luke Ely was the consolation champion.

    Ely pinned Rowan's Michael Corrente 4:48 into their consolation quarterfinal before winning his semifinal match by forfeit over Apprentice's David McElravy and scoring a 7-2 decision over Mott Community College's Seth Dominguez in the final.

    Senior Sam Karel became a three-time All-American for the Flames by defending his 184-pound title, scoring a 6-4 decision over UCF's Jarrod Smiley. That was the same score that Liberty four-time All-American Austin Amos won his 197-pound championship match by over Ohio State's Eldar Muradov to become the Flames' first three-time national champion.

     Junior Jeffrey Allen defended his 235-pound crown.

    Likewise, Liberty junior Jeffrey Allen defended his crown at 235 pounds, where Amos won his first title in 2018, defeating Grays Harbor's Octavio Alejandre, 8-3.

    Flames freshman Rick Weaver, who advanced to the championship final by winning four of his matches by fall, slipped to 34-5 on the year with a 9-4 setback to Grays Harbor's Mervyn Penniston-John.   

    At 141 pounds, Liberty sophomore Charles Hudson advanced to the consolation final with a 10-4 decision over UNLV's Andres Garcia in the quarterfinals, a 7-4 decision over West Chester's Jake Taylor in the first semifinal and by forfeit over Apprentice's Shalek Colon in the second. He eventually finished fourth after dropping a 9-4 decision to UCF's Justin Trinh in the third-place bout.

    Complete men's results are available online.

    In the women's bracket, Lady Flames second-year graduate Charisse Manley, Cendall's older sister who won the 143-pound weight class last season, was doubled up by Aliyah Yates of Big Bend Community College, 4-2 in the 136-pound final.

    At 191 pounds, Lady Flames junior Kyndra Wooten was pinned by Grays Harbor's Kamila Monenegro in 3:21 to also finish as a national runner-up.

    Liberty senior Catherine Morales went out a winner by decking Northeastern's Carmen Graham 1:57 into the first period of their 143-pound consolation final, wrapping up third place in her second trip to nationals.

    Complete women's results are available online.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer