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    March 10, 2023 San Juan, Puerto Rico RSS |

    Friday’s second day of the NCWA Grand National Championships at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan was a wild ride from start to finish for Liberty University’s four-time defending champion men’s wrestling team.

    The Flames began the day with only 64.5 team points, not 99.5 as originally reported, as the scoring system mistakenly factored in all of their wrestlers’ points after Thursday’s opening rounds, rather than just those designated scorers in each weight class. So instead of leading the competition by 25 points over Mid-Atlantic Conference rival Apprentice School, the Flames were in the thick of a five-team pack, dropping as low as fifth place before moving back up to first and ending the night in second behind Bellarmine (Ky.) University.

    The Knights ended Liberty’s four-year run as NCWA National Duals champions on Jan. 7 in their hometown of Louisville and can do the same at this weekend’s Grand Nationals being waged for the first time in Puerto Rico.

    Individually, three of Liberty’s four No. 1-seeded, defending MCLA national champions — graduate 197-pounder Josiah Murphy and seniors Jeff Allen (235 pounds) and Rick Weaver (heavyweight) — advanced to Saturday’s finals. But no others joined them, and twice as many were eliminated (six), with nine remaining in the consolation bracket.

    The Flames (145) trail Bellarmine (156.5), which only brought eight wrestlers as it could not enter more than one per weight class due to its NCAA Division I transitional status, but advanced five to the championship finals and has the remaining three still alive in the consolation rounds.

    Liberty leads Apprentice (124.5), Grand Valley State (117), Springfield Tech (112), Toledo (83.5), Grays Harbor (Wash., 78.5), Central Florida (74), Ohio State (73), and Florida (60), which rounds out the top 10 in a field of 66 teams and 613 wrestlers.

    Murphy reached Saturday’s final against Grand Valley State’s No. 2-seeded Seth Konynenbelt after recording two decisions — 5-2 over West Chester’s Matthew Micale and 3-1 over Slippery Rock’s Derek Yingling.

    Allen stared his day with a 12-2 major decision of Maine Maritime Academy’s Jeffrey Worster before pinning Springfield Tech’s Shawn Conniff in 2 minutes, 57 seconds, sending him to the championship final against Utah Tech’s Zeke Alleman.

    Weaver won both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches by first-period fall, pinning Rowan’s Caleb Corrigan in 1:01 before decking Toledo’s Jacob Meek in 47 seconds to advance to Saturday’s final against Bellarmine’s No. 3-seeded Thaddeus Huff.

    Flames No. 3-seeded graduate Dante Minnino split his two matches against Apprentice opponents, scoring a 19-4 technical fall over Caleb Olgers in the quarterfinals before dropping a 6-2 decision to No. 2 Bruno Alves to slip to the consolation semifinals.

    No. 2-seeded senior David Over bounced back from being upset by Apprentice’s 10th-seeded Landon Kissell, 8-7, by pinning Grand Valley State’s Trevor Dusty in 2:20 to set up a consolation semifinal showdown with Springfield Tech’s Jolan Martori. Similarly, Flames sophomore Gabe Hayes recovered from an 8-2 setback to Rutgers’ No. 3-seeded Nicholas Franco to win his consolation quarterfinal match with UNLV’s Alex Sulliban, 7-6, setting up a consolation semifinal matchup with Springfield Tech’s Stephano Magny.

    After advancing to the championship semis by pinning Maine Maritime Academy’s Nathan Schobel in 3:45, Flames 197-pound senior Sean Gillespie, seeded sixth, had the tables turned by third-seeded Matthew Abraham, who leveled him in 3:45. Gillespie will meet UConn’s Andrew Nanai in the consolation round of four. Liberty 235-pound senior Seth Ellsmore, meanwhile, scored a 14-5 major decision over Rhode Island’s Ed Wild in the quarterfinals before being shut out by Utah Tech’s Zeke Alleman, 7-0, putting him in the consolation semifinals.

    No. 3-seeded freshman Zach Kaminski, who had vanquished his three opponents on Thursday by technical fall without yielding a single point, landed his first fall 1:10 into his quarterfinal match against Florida’s Riley Hackworth before being pinned by Grand Valley State’s No. 2-seeded Josh Kenny in 1:28 to also land in Saturday’s consolation semis.

    In the women’s brackets, Liberty has just one of its nine national qualifiers left in the consolation finals — junior 170-pound captain Maile Ka-ahanui — and none in the championship finals after Friday’s opening day of competition.

    Ka-ahanui, Liberty’s only No. 1 seed, opened tournament action with an 18-0 technical fall of Savanna Barroso before being pinned by No. 4-seeded Samantha Meyer of Big Bend (Wash.) Community College. She bounced back by decking Northeastern’s Eliana Eats in 4:57 to set up a consolation final against Grays Harbor’s Katie Gakin.

    The Lady Flames accumulated 21 team points to stand in 11th place out of 35 participating schools. Complete results are available online and all of Saturday’s consolation and championship finals matches will be streamed live on FloWrestling.org.

    Wrestling will resume with men’s consolation semifinals and women’s finals at 12:30 p.m. EST followed by men’s championship bouts at 5 p.m. EST.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer