WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 4-ranked West Liberty University wrestling team won seven of the last eight matches here Thursday night and raced away to a convincing 29-9 dual meet triumph against No. 11 Ashland (Ohio) in a battle of NCAA Division II Top 25 squads inside the ASRC.
“This was a good night to get back on the mat in the ASRC,” Irwin said. “Really didn’t know what to expect from our guys. We’ve only been able to train together maybe eight of the last 28 days with the holidays and making sure everyone stays safe within the COVID-19 protocols. They competed hard against a very good Ashland team and never stopped fighting for points until the final whistle. We can walk out of here feeling pretty good about what we did tonight.”
Defending national champion Cole Laya picked up a forfeit win at 125 to start things off but the Eagles posted back-to-back decisions at 133 and 141 to pull even on the scoreboard at 6-6.
Jacob Simpson stopped the bleeding for the Black and Gold in impressive fashion as the 149-pound junior from Morgantown’s University High School dominated Ashland’s Jesse Bowers throughout on his way to an 18-2 technical fall.
Christian Rivera and Chase Morgan padded the margin with wins at 157 and 165. Rivera just missed pinning regionally-ranked Chance Esmont at the end of the second period before gutting out a 7-5 win. Morgan never trailed in stacking up an 8-3 revenge win against Cameron Jenkins.
“Really impressed tonight by Christian Rivera and Chase Morgan,” Irwin said. “Big wins for us at 157 and 165. Christian’s guy was ranked No. 2 in the region bur Christian got those four big back points in the second period and kept his composure to the end for the win.
“Their 165-pounder beat Chase earlier this year but tonight was a different story. Chase has shown a lot of growth over the course of the season and this was a great example. Our region’s 165-pound class is really tough but I know where Chase wants to go and he has the ability to get there.”
Ashland’s only win in the last half of the match came at 174 pounds where the Eagles’ No. 10-ranked Daniel Beemer scored the only takedown of the match late in the opening period and made it stand up for a 3-2 win against WLU’s No. 2-ranked Ty McGeary. That cut West Liberty’s lead to 17-9 but it was all Hilltoppers the rest of the way.
Former national champion Connor Craig, ranked No. 2 at 184 pounds, notched the only fall of the night when he pinned AU’s Corbin May at 2:23 of the first period. Veteran Logan Kemp, a 3-time NCAA qualifier ranked No. 7 in the nation at 197 pounds, coasted to a 6-2 win against Kaine Morris and returning All-American Francesco Borsellino, the nation’s No. 5-ranked 285-pounder, closed up shop with a 6-0 shutout of the Eagles’ Ty Petrey.
More than pleased with what he saw from his squad on Thursday, Irwin will be looking for more of the same in tournament action on Saturday.
“Big weekend coming up for us,” Irwin said. “The guys who didn’t wrestle tonight will be in action Saturday and I’m pretty excited about that. Alec Cook has been out with an injury but he’s been looking really good in the room so it will be great to see him back on the mat. Greg Brusco is a guy Hilltopper fans haven’t seen yet but he brings a lot of wins to the table and I know he’s fired up about competing again. Same with Andrew Shelek, a local guy who’s also been out of action for quite a while due to injury.
“After the break, it seems like ages since we’ve competed so I think we’re all really looking forward to it.”
The Hilltoppers will be in North Manchester, Ind. on Saturday to compete in the Spartan Mat Classic. Preliminary matches get under way at 9 a.m.
#4 West Liberty 29, #11 Ashland 9
125: #2 Cole Laya (WLU) won by forfeit
133: Tyler Masters (Ash) d. Luke Miller (WLU), 3-0
141: Luke Wymer (Ash) d. Marcus Jean-Baptiste (WLU), 8-3
149: Jacob Simpson (WLU) tf. Jesse Bowers (Ash), 18-2
157: Christian Rivera (WLU) vs. Chance Esmont (Ash), 7-5
165: Chase Morgan (WLU) vs. Cameron Jenkins (Ash), 8-3
174: #10 Daniel Beemer (Ash) d. #2 Ty McGeary (WLU), 3-2
184: #2 Connor Craig (WLU) p. Corbin May (Ash), 2:23
197: #7 Logan Kemp (WLU) d. Kaine Morris (Ash), 6-2
285: #5 Francesco Borsellino (WLU) d. Ty Petrey (Ash), 6-0