Seven wrestlers place in top six to lead Flames to fifth-place finish in Florida
Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team landed in fifth place out of 14 teams at the Citrus Invitational in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Individually, the Flames’ 14 wrestlers earned two second-place showings, two fourth-place finishes, two fifth-place honors, and a sixth-place performance competing against mostly NCAA Division III programs.
“I was proud of my guys,” Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “Unfortunately, we had a couple wrestlers, our starting lightweights, who could not come because of positive COVID tests. They were asymptomatic but had to be quarantined for five days per the new CDC mandate. Both of those guys would have placed.”
The Flames still scored 87 points to place fifth behind tournament champion Augsburg (Minn., 215), Castleton (Vt., 159), Cornell (N.Y., 129), and John Carroll (Ohio, 122.5) and barely ahead of the University of the Ozarks (Ark., 86.5) and Roanoke College (86).
“Augsburg ran away with it,” Castro said, noting both of Liberty’s runner-up wrestlers — seniors Blake Barrick at 184 and Jeffrey Allen at heavyweight — lost their finals matches to top-seeded opponents from the Auggies.
Barrick pinned Roanoke’s Jackson Shumate in 4 minutes, 24 seconds before winning his quarterfinal match by 19-0 technical fall over Castleton’s Alec Richards and his semifinal bout by fall in 5:47 over Castleton’s Haven Tatarek before losing his championship match to Augsburg’s nationally ranked Nick Rogge by 16-0 technical fall.
Allen, who won his first two matches by fall over Ferrum College’s Ethan Fragoso in 2:01 and Castleton’s Lou Padilla in 6:18, and his next two matches by 6-3 decision over Cornell’s Drake Fox in the quarterfinal and 4-1 decision over the University of the Ozarks’ Ka’Ron Lewis in the semifinals, lost by 10-1 major decision to Tyler Kim in the championship final.
Flames junior heavyweight Rick Weaver, who finished fifth, needed a combined 55 seconds to win his three matches — by first-period falls over Cornell’s Quinn Wilcoxen in 10 seconds and Ferrum’s Rayshawn Dixon in 32 seconds in the quarterfinal. However, after losing his semifinal bout by 7-3 decision to Kim, he was forced to take a medical forfeit in the consolation semifinals in order to recover from his only loss.
“It was a hard match and that kid (Kim) was very good and Rick overextended himself physically and had to sit out his next match,” Castro said. “He’s pinning people so fast that he’s not used to going the distance and his body is not ready for it yet. Hopefully, this is a wakeup call.”
Weaver did recover in time to win his fifth-place final over Lewis by fall in 13 seconds.
Flames senior Sean Gillespie finished fourth at 197 pounds after pinning St. Thomas’ (Fla.) Jesus Perez in 2:23 and St. John’s (Minn.) Tommy Gilmore in 4:59 and scoring a 12-8 decision over D.J. Myles of St. John’s before forfeiting his consolation final.
Liberty senior Josiah Murphy, who was not seeded at 197 pounds, placed fifth, beginning and ending his competition with wins over Cornell’s Treyten Steffen. He pinned Steffen in 1:05 in his first match before doubling up Carroll’s Jesse Kanatzar, 6-3, in the quarterfinals and dropping a 6-1 decision to Augsburg’s Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann in the semifinals and a 7-2 decision to the Auggies’ Tyler Raway in the consolation semifinals. Finally, in the fifth-place rematch, Murphy edged Steffen by 8-6 decision.
At 165 pounds, Flames junior David Over finished fourth by bouncing back from a first-round fall to Cornell’s Casey Allen to win four consecutive consolation matches — by 17-1 technical fall over Roanoke’s Johnny Moshman, tiebreaker decision over Augsburg’s Connor Thorsten, 15-6 major decision over Roanoke’s Andrew McDougal, and medical forfeit over the Ozarks’ John Ndayambaje.
Liberty had three wrestlers score points in the 149-pound weight class, paced by junior Brandon Ahlemann’s sixth-place performance after he won his first match by fall over Cornell’s Jacob Ramirez in 37 seconds and reached the semifinals with a 7-0 decision over Carroll’s Kale Buckiso.
Both Flames junior Charlie Hudson and senior teammate Robert Leek were bumped to the consolation bracket by Augsburg’s Tanner Kroells. Hudson, who had decked Carroll’s Trysten Zahoransky in 2:16 of his first match, pinned Leek in 3:45 of their second-round consolation match. Leek had won his consolation opener by pin over Cornell’s Seth Danker in 32 seconds.
At 141 pounds, Liberty sophomore Garrett Good picked up five team points by winning two matches by first-period pin — over Castleton’s Tylik Epps in 26 seconds and Cornell’s Kyler Henderson in 1:03.
Finally, at 157 pounds, Flames junior Ian McIlhenny picked up 1.5 points—the difference between a fifth- and seventh-place team finish — by winning two matches by decision even after breaking his hand in a first-round 5-3 loss to Carroll’s nationally ranked Luke Reicowsky.
McIlhenny will be sidelined for four weeks and may not be available when Liberty, the three-time defending champion, hosts the Jan. 21-22 NCWA National Duals. In that case, Castro will rely on 157-pound sophomore Connor McCann, who missed the Florida trip after spraining his ankle in practice days before.
The Flames will return to the mats on Jan. 14-15 when Castro will send a split squad to the Will Abele Tournament hosted by Ursinus (Pa.) College while the majority of his team competes in the Virginia Duals at the Hampton (Va.) Coliseum.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer