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    January 15, 2022 Hampton, Va. RSS |

    Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team defeated Johns Hopkins University in Friday’s first round and Saturday’s last match of the Virginia Duals at the Hampton Coliseum, winning the consolation final to capture third place in the American College Division.

    “I am very proud of our guys,” said Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro, who watched the matches remotely while recovering from a COVID-19 bout. “My coaching staff did a terrific job filling in for me in my absence. The fight was there, each team member had the back of their teammate. Bringing home hardware at this tournament is a tough feat wrestling against NCAA Division II and III teams. The guys reached deep from within themselves.”

    Liberty rallied from a 17-12 deficit to edge the Blue Jays in the opener, 25-17, with 184-pound senior Blake Barrick winning a 9-0 major decision over John Libby, 197-pound senior Josiah Murphy pinning Will Shiber in 2:01, and heavyweight Jeff Allen winning a 6-1 decision over Hank Behaeghel to complete the comeback. The Flames won three of the first four matches to seize an early 12-3 lead with graduate Logan Robertson scoring a 19-3 technical fall over Bryant Bailey at 133 pounds; sophomore Garrett Good earning a 10-5 decision over Yosef Ellis-Rech at 141; and junior Brandon Ahlemann recording a 13-3 major decision over Jack Albin at 149.

    The Flames then lost their quarterfinal round match against second-seeded Averett University, 19-14.

    The Cougars won six of the first seven matches to take a 19-3 lead, with Ahlemann’s 2-0 decision over Gabe LaVey at 149 being the only bright spot. But Liberty swept the heavyweight bouts, with Barrick scoring a 15-0 technical fall over Kowan Lee at 184, Murphy edging William Baldwin 5-3 at 197, and junior heavyweight Rick Weaver escaping with a 1-0 decision over Jamar Christian.

    “Averett is nationally ranked, and that was a hard-fought match with very little bonus points scored,” Castro said. “They were all close matches for the most part.”

    The winner of Liberty’s consolation semifinal match against Roanoke College was determined by tiebreaker after the Flames and Maroons were knotted at 18 after Weaver pinned RC’s Brady Elswick at heavyweight in 2:04.

    Back-to-back wins by Robertson over Sean Hall (by 15-8 decision at 133) and Good over Dustin Smith (6-0 at 141) gave the Flames an early 6-3 lead before Roanoke proceeded to win the next four matches to open an 18-6 advantage. Barrick and Murphy responded by winning their 184 and 197 bouts by 6-1 decision over Sam Francis and 5-3 decision over Jack Dyess, respectively, setting up Weaver’s heroics. Liberty won the tiebreaker with more first takedowns than the Maroons.

    Sophomore 149-pounder Brandon Ahlemann won three of his four matches in the duals, including his first and last against Johns Hopkins.

    In the third-place final against Johns Hopkins, Robertson scored a 12-4 major decision in his rematch with Bailey at 133, and Good and Ahlemann landed back-to-back falls against Ellis-Rech and Albin, respectively — in 3:39 at 141 and 2:56 at 149 — to propel Liberty to a 16-3 advantage. However, the Blue Jays won the next three matches by pin to capture a 21-16 lead before Barrick pinned Libby in 6:22 at 184. Murphy then earned a 12-5 decision over Shiber at 197 and Allen clinched the team triumph with a 4-1 decision over Behaeghel.

    “I was very satisfied with the guys’ performance today,” said Flames Assistant Coach Josh McIlhenny, who was subbing for Castro. “Everyone was working hard and came ready to wrestle. It was evident that they were wrestling for more than just themselves, they were wrestling for each other.”

    Castro said the tournament showing bodes well for the Flames, who will be contending for their fourth consecutive (and sixth overall) NCWA National Duals championship next Friday and Saturday at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    “We will be ready,” Castro said.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer