Local wrestling recruits will fill voids in Liberty’s lineup left by graduation
A bumper crop of recruits has Liberty University men’s wrestling Head Coach Jesse Castro brimming with anticipation for the immediate future of the program, which won its fourth consecutive NCWA National Duals and NCWA Grand National and 10th straight Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament championships this past year.
Among incoming freshmen for the Fall 2022 recruiting class are three local products who on Tuesday afternoon at the Liberty Club Sports Complex signed their letters of intent to compete for the Flames and help continue their winning ways — Jefferson Forest High School’s Blake Schmitt at 133 pounds and Liberty Christian Academy’s Jordan Scott at 165 and Thomas Murphy at 174.
“We do have probably 12-14 guys coming in, one of our better recruiting classes, and we are pretty high on the local guys,” Castro said.
Schmitt, the younger brother of VMI wrestler Zach Schmitt, recorded more than 100 wins in high school. He may contend for a starting spot at 133 pounds right away after the Flames graduated Logan Robertson, or he could bump up to 141.
“Blake is going to be a key recruit for us,” Castro said. “Over the past years (since he was in elementary school), he has been involved in our Virginia Gold Wrestling Club.”
“I’ve grown up with a lot of the Liberty guys and went to school with some of them, and Coach Castro has always been a good character role model for me,” Schmitt added.
Schmitt formerly wrestled with rising Flames juniors Jalen Fyffe and Garrett Good at Brookville as a freshman and sophomore — when he placed third at the VHSL Class 3A state meet at 113 pounds — before transferring to JFHS, where he wrestled under former Liberty Assistant Coach Allen Hackmann.
He moved up to 126 pounds his junior year, when COVID-19 canceled his season before he bumped up to 132 pounds this year and placed third in Region III, but didn’t place at the Class 4A state meet.
“I definitely feel like I will grow a lot stronger, both physically and spiritually, just in the wisdom from alumni,” said Schmitt, who plans to enroll in Liberty’s technical studies program and earn his electrical license before potentially pursuing a bachelor’s degree through the School of Business.
Scott, who was co-valedictorian of his class at LCA and plans to major in biomedical sciences at Liberty, wrestled behind rising Flames junior Grant Brammer for his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Bulldogs. After placing third in Region III as a junior at 152 pounds and as a senior at 160 pounds, qualifying for the Class 3A state meet, he hopes to challenge for mat time at the 165 or 174 weight classes at Liberty.
“Being able to wrestle for (Liberty) is a pretty cool opportunity, just coming into a college that’s right across the street (from LCA),” Scott said. I know a lot of guys here already on the team, so it’ll make the transition a lot easier. Grant Brammer and I have pretty similar wrestling styles and he has taught me a lot of things.”
He said his conditioning level is one of his greatest strengths, along with his agility that comes from a background in trampoline and tumbling that he has incorporated into his wrestling style.
“I’ve been known as one of the best conditioned wrestlers on the team,” Scott said. “Coaches have said that and that’s what I have trained myself to be. I’ve been doing a lot of strict weight training, getting my weight up to at least (174), so that way I can come down (to 165) and have more muscle mass at that weight.”
Murphy, the younger brother of Flames NCWA Grand National 197-pound champion Josiah Murphy, also wrestled at LCA under Head Coach Paul Anthony, who will retire this year, and Assistant Coach Dr. Jim Schoffstall, Chairman of the Allied Health Professions at Liberty and an exercise science professor.
Josiah Murphy graduated with a B.S. in Exercise Science this month and Thomas Murphy may follow his footsteps, both onto the mat and in that degree program, if he doesn’t study business.
Besides picking up plenty of pointers at the Liberty Wrestling Camp over the past several summers, he has learned most of what he knows about wrestling from his older brother, who is four years older and 25 pounds heavier.
“(Josiah) kind of beats up on me, and teaches me some things,” said Thomas, who placed sixth at this year’s Class 3A state meet after playing linebacker on LCA’s football team that reached the Class 3A state championship game. “We wrestle similar styles but he’s just got size and strength, and his technique is very much improved. I have a pretty good blast double (takedown), so my shot is pretty good.”
He plans to continue his offseason workout routines to prepare to hit the ground running in the fall.
“I’ll be working out a lot and getting my butt beaten by Josiah over the summer,” said Thomas,
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media