Men’s wrestlers roll to third-place finish at Blithe Memorial Duals in Michigan
Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team narrowly missed reaching the championship finals of Saturday’s Blithe Memorial Duals at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., but still came away with third place in the eight-team tournament that featured mostly NAIA and NCAA Division III programs.
After going 3-0 and winning its pool on Friday, the Flames started Saturday’s bracket competition with a quarterfinal matchup with Defiance (Ohio) College. Liberty recorded six falls and won three matches by forfeit to score a 54-5 victory that sent it to a semifinal showdown with Albion (Mich.) College, an NCAA Division III program that had beaten Wheaton (Ill.) College, 30-18, in its quarterfinal bout.
The Flames battled Albion back and forth in a match with three lead changes after Liberty graduate Dante Minnino earned an 11-7 decision over Benyamin Kamali at 125 pounds. The teams traded pins at 133 (Albion’s Austin Matheney over Liberty freshman Blake Schmitt) and 157 (Flames junior Brandon Ahlemann over James Buurma) and decisions at 141 (Liberty junior Garrett Good over Cade Odrobina) and 149 (Albion’s Max Honiss over senior Charlie Hudson). Albion then proceeded to erase a 12-9 deficit by stringing together three straight major decisions at 165, 174, and 184 to seize a 21-12 advantage.
That forced the Flames’ stacked upperweights to land at least one fall and one major decision or two technical falls in the final two matches to advance to the championship final, and they came up two points short of completing the comeback. Graduate Josiah Murphy scored an 11-2 major decision over Albion’s Garrett Iobe at 197 before senior Jeff Allen — a three-time-defending NCWA Grand National champion who had decked Defiance’s Kelvin Ruffin in 14 seconds in their heavyweight bout — could only muster a 3-1 decision over Christopher Krum.
The setback sent Liberty to a consolation final rematch against tournament host Cornerstone and the Flames soared over the Golden Eagles behind decisions from Schmitt at 133 and freshman Grant Brammer at 141, a technical fall by Hudson at 149, pins by freshman Zachary Kaminski at 174 and sophomore Gabe Hayes at 184 and forfeit wins by Murphy at 197 and senior Rick Weaver at 285.
“Although we beat (Cornerstone) in the finals of our pool on Friday night, 23-17, I felt that they outwrestled us,” Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “Both teams battled back for the consolation prize and we wrestled so much better this match, winning, 35-10, a testament to the character of our team.”
After completing finals next week and returning home for a short Christmas Break, the Flames will end 2022 and start 2023 with back-to-back road trips, traveling to the Dec. 29-30 Citrus Invitational in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the NCWA National Duals the following weekend in Louisville, where the NCAA and NAIA will also hold their national dual tournaments.
Liberty 54, Defiance College 5
125: Dante Minnino (L), by forfeit; 133: Seth Majewski (D) t.f. Chase Arnestad, 17-0; 141: Grant Brammer (L) p. Brandon Ruiz, 1:32; 149: Charles Hudson (L) p. Shamique Bryant. 0:54; 157: Connor McCann (L) p. Brent Eicher, 5:21; 165: David Over (L), by forfeit; 174: Zachary Kaminski (L), by forfeit; 184: Gabriel Hayes (L) p. Joseph Perez, 2:07; 197: Sean Gillespie (L) p. Lesly Fleurissaint, 1:01; 285: Jefferey Allen (L) p. Kelvin Ruffin, 0:14.
Albion College 21, Liberty 19
125: Minnino (L) d. Benyamin Kamali, 11-7; 133: Austin Matheney (A) p. Blake Schmitt, 6:14; 141: Garrett Good (L) d. Cade Odrobina, 8-3; 149: Max Honiss (A) d. Hudson, 13-8; 157: Brandon Ahlemann (L) p. James Buurma 1:31; 165: Peyton Brooks (A) m.d. McCann, 20-8; 174: Jack Smith (A) m.d. Kaminski, 14-3; 184: Owen McDaniel (A) m.d. Jackson Wakeland, 18-6; 197: Josiah Murphy (L) m.d. Garrett Iobe, 11-2; 285: Allen (L) d. Christopher Krum 3-1.
Liberty 35, Cornerstone 10
125: Trevor Marsman (C) m.d. Minnino, 11-3; 133: Schmitt (L) d. Thomas Zielinksi, 7-4; 141: Brammer (L) d. Devan Johnson, 8-4; 149: Hudson (L) t.f. Luke Jaworski, 18-0; 157: Thade Radosa (C) d. Ahlemann. 8-3; 165: Noah Anderson (C) d. McCann, 8-5; 174: Kaminski (L) p. Joe Lashuay, 2:02; 184: Hayes (L) p. Jacob Nelson, 1:30; 197: Murphy (L) by forfeit; 285: Rick Weaver (L) by forfeit.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer