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    January 7, 2023 Louisville, Ky. RSS |

    Four-time-defending NCWA National Duals tournament champion Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team came up just short in its bid for a fifth consecutive crown, Saturday at the Kentucky Convention Center.

    More than 1,600 men’s and women’s wrestlers converged in Louisville, Ky., for the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) multi-divisional dual meet national tournament, divided into NCAA DII and DIII as well as NAIA and NCWA classifications.

    After rallying from a 21-9 deficit to edge Mid-Atlantic Conference foe Apprentice School, 25-24, in the semifinals, the Flames bowed to Bellarmine University, which is transitioning to the NCAA Division I ranks next season, 28-21, in the championship final.

    Liberty, the No. 1 seed which breezed past the three opponents in its pool decisively on Friday, opened Saturday’s championship bracket competition with a 57-3 rout of No. 8-seeded Emory & Henry (Va.) College, recording six pins, two forfeits, and one technical fall.

    But the Flames nearly met their match in the Builders, from Newport News, Va., dropping two of their first three bouts by fall to dig themselves into an early 15-0 hole. They slowly overcame the deficit, scoring tech falls by freshman Zach Kaminski at 174 pounds and graduate Josiah Murphy at 197 before back-to-back decisions by seniors Jeff Allen at 235 and Rick Weaver at heavyweight.

    Against Bellarmine, which held a home-mat advantage being from Louisville, Liberty dropped seven of the first eight matches, with its only win coming by forfeit at 141 pounds. The Knights secured their first championship final match with a 9-1 major decision by Kennedy Wyatt over freshman Jackson Wakeland at 184 pounds before the Flames claimed the last three bouts, the first by forfeit and last by Weaver’s second pin of the tournament to go with his two tech falls.

    “Losing in the finals to NCAA Division I transition team and tournament host Bellarmine was a tough pill to swallow, but certainly not reason to despair,” Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro said. “We were outwrestled, period. That was a solid NCAA DI team. We were respectable, but aways off from beating them head-to-head. It was a great wake-up call.”

    As tournament champion, Bellarmine earned 20 bonus points toward the March 9-11 NCWA Grand National Championships in Puerto Rico. The Flames will contend for their fifth consecutive title in that tournament as well, picked up 18 bonus points based on their runner-up finish.

    “(Bellarmine is) clearly the team to beat there,” Castro said. “It will be a tall order.”

    Championship Quarterfinal

    Liberty 57, Emory & Henry 3

    125: Chase Arnestad (L) p. Orlando Hernandez, 1:20; 133: Blake Schmitt (L) t.f. Johnathan Almany, 16-0; 141: Grant Brammer (L), by forfeit; 149: Josiah Foss (L) p. Collin Davidson, 2:59; 157: Ian McIlhenny (L) m.d. Levi Field, 11-2; 165: Syler Weber (L) p. Konor Gray, 0:49; 174: Zachary Kaminski (L) p. Alexander Baumberger, 4:43; 184: Jackson Wakeland (L) p. Brenden Blevins, 1:12; 197: Sean Gillespie (L) p. Hunter Brown, 2:01; 235: Jefferey Allen (L), by forfeit; 285: Donovan Pinnix (EH) d. Seth Ellsmore, 10-5.

    Championship Semifinal

    Liberty 25, Apprentice 24

    125: Bruno Alves (AS) d. Dante Minnino, 9-2; 133: Dillon Messick (AS) p. Blake Schmitt, 2:52; 141: Jordan Robins (AS) p. Brammer, 6:11; 149: Charles Hudson (L) p. Zachary Ortega, 6:06; 157: McIlhenny (L) d. David Norris, 7-5; 165: Ethan Baker (AS) p. Syler Weber, 5:27; 174: Kaminski (L) t.f. Landon Kissell, 16-0; 184: David McElravy Jr. (AS) d. Gabriel Hayes, 4-2; 197: Josiah Murphy (Liberty) t.f. Matthew Henson,18-3; 235: Allen (L) d. Russ Pierce, 7-1; 285: Rick Weaver (L) d. Peter Cortapasso, 7-0.

    Championship Final

    Bellarmine 29, Liberty 21

    125: Jack Parker (B) d. Minnino, 11-6; 133: Michael Schiffhauer (B) m.d. Schmitt, 15-4; 141: Brammer (L), by forfeit; 149: Zac Cowan (B) t.f. Hudson, 25-10; 157: Grant Odell (B) m.d. McIlhenny, 12-4; 165: Cole Nance (B) p. Weber, 1:10; 174: Devan Hendricks (B) d. Kaminski, 8-1; 184: Kennedy Wyatt (B) m.d. Wakeland, 9-1; 197: Murphy (L) by forfeit; 235: Allen (L) d. Thadd Huff, 3-2; 285: Weaver (L) p. William Muckler, 2:20.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video edited by Micah Adams/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant