Men’s wrestlers rally past rival Christian teams in dramatic fashion at first dual tournament
In showdowns between a trio of Christian programs, Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team overcame 9- and 10-point deficits late in Friday’s opening match against host Cornerstone (Mich.) University and early in its clash with Wheaton (Ill.) College to emerge with 23-17 and 26-17 victories, respectively, in the first two rounds of pool play at the Blithe Memorial Duals in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Flames went on to dominate Siena Heights (Mich.) University, pulling away for a 34-10 triumph by winning the last six matches, including three by fall, to advance as the No. 1 seed out of Pool A. Liberty will face Albion (Mich.) College, the No. 2 seed out of Pool B, in Saturday’s championship quarterfinal match, with action expected to resume at 9 a.m. EST.
“So far, so good,” Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “That was a grueling first day of what has proven to be a much tougher dual tournament than I realized it would be. We need to pick it up for (Saturday) as it, too, will be another grinder.”
Liberty is the only NCWA program in the eight-team field that includes mostly NAIA and a couple NCAA Division III teams. The tournament was named in memory of Cornerstone Head Coach Chris Williamson’s firstborn son, Christopher Blithe, who died last year in childbirth. Williamson, who wrestled at Messiah College and served as Castro’s Assistant Coach at Liberty, married his youngest daughter, Rachel.
“It was a great event for the team, and an awesome time coaching against my son-in-law (Williamson), whom I am so very proud of,” said Castro, who had the opportunity to hold the Williamsons’ second son, Zaddock, who was born in October, for the first time, which he considered the highlight of the day.
In the action on the mat against the NAIA Golden Eagles, Liberty trailed 17-8 before 184-pound freshman Jackson Wakeland scored a 6-3 decision over Jacob Nelson and graduate Josiah Murphy and senior Jeff Allen posted opening-minute pins against Jackson Turner at 197 pounds and Brendan Mahar at 285 to pull out the dramatic win.
Then, the NCAA DIII Lyons opened a 10-0 lead in the Flames’ second match before senior Charlie Hudson turned the momentum in Liberty’s favor by decking Cale Coppess 3:00 into their 149-pound bout. Freshman 174-pounder Zachary Kaminski scored a technical fall against Jacob Kraker before Wakeland pinned Hunter Kamierczak 34 seconds into their 184-pound match and senior heavyweight Rick Weaver clinched the win by pinning Robert Osborn in just over a minute.
“We had various wrestlers bump up when needed, covering for teammates who might have struggled in those matchups,” Castro said. “Our guys are not physically where they need to be in their conditioning as well as positionally, yet. We gave away too many matches where we should have closed out on top.”
Senior David Over (165), sophomore Gabriel Hayes (184), and Allen (285) posted pins in the match against Siena Heights, a local NAIA program from Grand Rapids.
Complete results are available on TrackWrestling.com.
Liberty 23, Cornerstone 17
125: Trevor Marsman (C) m.d. Dante Minnino, 14-6; 133: Blake Schmitt (L) d. Thomas Zielinski, 5-3; 141: Devan Johnson (C) d. Garrett Good, 13-7; 149: Charles Hudson (L) t.f. Luke Jaworski, 16-0; 157: Thade Radosa (C) m.d. Connor McCann, 15-3; 165: Daniel Countryman (C) d. David Over, 3-1; 174: Joe Lashuay (C) d. Zachary Kaminski, 13-6; 184: Jackson Wakeland (L) d. Jacob Nelson, 6-3; 197: Josiah Murphy (L) p. Jackson Turner, 0:28; 285: Jeff Allen (L) p. Brendan Mahar, 0:55.
Liberty 26, Wheaton 17
125: Anthony Zamora (W) d. Minnino, 9-7; 133: Brendan Johnston (W) d. Schmitt, 5-0; 141: Ethan Renager (W) m.d. Good, 9-0; 149: Hudson (L) p. Cale Coppess, 3:00; 157: Cade Zeamer (W) d. Brandon Ahlemann, 8-1; 165: Over (L) d. Garrett Boyd, 11-6; 174: Kaminski (L) t.f. Jacob Kraker, 21-3; 184: Wakeland (L) p. Hunter Kazmierczak, 0:34; 197: Jackson Punzel (W) m.d. Sean Gillespie, 14-4; 285: Rick Weaver (L) p. Robert Osborn, 1:06.
Liberty 34, Siena Heights 10
125: Chase Arnestad (L) m.d. Zachary LaPlante, 17-8; 133: Noah Comar (SH) d. Schmitt, 11-8; 141: Christopher Sorrow (SH) m.d. Good, 17-3; 149: Dylan McLean (SH) d. Hudson, 7-5; 157: Ahlemann (L) d. Mathew Dwyer, 7-2; 165: Over (L) p. Gage Parker, 3:45; 174: Kaminski (L) t.f. Brandon Rau, 17-0; 184: Gabriel Hayes (L) p. Kamari Bradley, 4:54; 197: Murphy (L) m.d. Wesley Peters, 10-2; 285: Allen (L) p. Nathan Burns, 1:43.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer