Salem, Va. F Liberty 7 (6) Virginia Tech 34
SALEM, Va. - The sixth-ranked Virginia Tech wrestling team rolled to a 34-7 victory over Liberty University Thursday night at Andrew Lewis Middle School as it wrapped up the regular season with 20-4 mark in dual meets and snapped Liberty?s seven-match winning streak. The 20 wins tied the school record set by the 2008-09 squad.
The match started at 125 pounds with 14th-ranked Jarrod Garnett picking up a 13-5 major decision over Justin Branham. Garnett got two first-period takedowns and two more in the second period to take an 8-3 lead. He quickly reversed Branham early in the third stanza and got a late takedown to secure the four team points. At 133 pounds, Liberty?s T.J. Mitchell got an early takedown on No. 10 Devin Carter, but Carter battled back with three takedowns and a three-point nearfall to take a 10-4 lead after one period and stretched his lead to 15-5 after two periods. The freshman went on to pick up yet another major decision, winning 15-6 to improve to 30-5 on the season.
Zach Neibert continued his impressive season at 141 pounds, pinning Joe Montgomery in the first period. Neibert got two takedowns, and on the second, he locked a cradle in and put Montgomery on his back, sticking him at the 1:59 mark to pick up his 22nd victory of the season.
At 149 pounds, Tech?s Cameron Hurd took to the mat in front of a large contingent of friends and family and downed Peter Crawford, 12-5. The Roanoke native and Liberty transfer got a takedown in the period and then picked up three points for a nearfall. He led 6-2 after a period and both wrestlers got a takedown in the second period. Hurd got a takedown off an exciting scramble with a minute left to ice his 21st win of the season.
Moving to 157 pounds, fifth-ranked Jesse Dong kept things rolling for the Hokies as he downed Julian Colon, 17-3. Dong got two takedowns and a nearfall in the first period to take a 6-1 lead and used a takedown and three more points for a nearfall in the second period to take a 12-1 lead. He picked up two takedowns in the third period to pick up the major decision, giving Tech a 21-0 lead at the halfway point.
At 165 pounds, Liberty?s unranked Chad Porter grabbed an early 5-3 lead on No. 14 Pete Yates with a pair of takedowns, and stretched his lead to 8-5 heading to the final stanza. Porter owned the third period, getting an escape, two takedowns and a point for riding time to pick up a big 15-7 major decision. Matt Epperly picked up an impressive pin of Eli Sanchez to get the momentum back on the Hokies? side at 174 pounds. Epperly used a headlock throw to take down Sanchez right to his back and locked it in tight, picking up the first-period pin at the 1:23 mark.
At 184 pounds, Aaron Kelley of Liberty used a takedown and nearfall points at the buzzer to grab a 6-1 lead after one period over Tech?s John Dickson. Dickson battled back in the second period with a takedown and reversal to cut it to a 9-6 deficit heading to the final period. But Kelley squirmed out a standing cradle and worked the takedown for himself to secure the 13-6 win.
Tech?s Chris Penny earned three takedowns in the first period to take a 6-2 lead after period over Aaron Thompson at 197 pounds. Penny got another takedown in the second period, but Thompson cut into the lead with a takedown in the third period. But Penny recorded a takedown with 10 seconds left to pick up the 13-5 major decision and win his fourth match in a row heading to postseason.
The bout finished at heavyweight with Tech?s David Marone downed Josh Pelletier, 7-3. Marone worked for a takedown late in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead and then escaped early in the second stanza. Marone got in on Pelletier?s ankle and pulled it in for another takedown late in the second period to take a 5-1 lead into the final period. There, Marone got another takedown and held off several late charges from Pelletier for the win. The win was a big one for Marone as he moved to 18-7, making him eligible to qualify in the winning percentage portion in the NCAA?s qualify process.
The Hokies will now have two weeks off before heading to Charlottesville for the ACC Championships, held Saturday, March 5 at the John Paul Jones Arena on the campus of UVa.
#6 Virginia Tech 34, Liberty 7
125: #14 Jarrod Garnett (VT) maj. dec. Justin Branham, 13-5
133: #10 Devin Carter (VT) maj. dec. T.J. Mitchell, 15-6
141: Zach Neibert (VT) fall Joe Montgomery, 1:59
149: Cameron Hurd (VT) dec. Peter Crawford, 12-5
157: #5 Jesse Dong (VT) maj. dec. Julian Colon, 17-3
165: Chad Porter (LU) maj. dec. #14 Pete Yates, 15-7
174: Matt Epperly (VT) fall Eli Sanchez, 1:23
184: Aaron Kelley (LU) dec. John Dickson, 13-6
197: Chris Penny (VT) maj. dec. Aaron Thompson, 13-5
285: David Marone (VT) dec. Josh Pelletier, 7-3
For updates on Virginia Tech wrestling, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Wrestling).