The Mountaineer grapplers defeated out of conference foe Ohio University 25-15 at the WVU Coliseum Friday night without several of their usual starters. Seth Lisa, ranked 19th in the nation at 133 pounds, was grounded by a knee injury. Mike Torriero, #18 at 149 pounds, missed the meet due to a neck injury, and Ryan Wilman, WVU's starting wrestler at 174, was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Add these wounds to those already suffered by 2003 All-American Brandon Lauer at 141 and Brent "Moose" Miller's departure from heavyweight competition due to academic ineligibility, and the team's depth and fortitude were certainly challenged. But as every chorine knows, the star's injury gives an understudy that big chance he's been awaiting. And as every coach knows, today's stars will eventually graduate, and those underclassmen who will soon succeed them benefit from experience.
Ohio had its own scratches as well. All-American and 4th-ranked Jake Percival at 157 was sidelined with the flu, and starter Ed Willis at 174 sat out with injury.
Perhaps the most exciting match of the evening was the first one. WVU freshman Shane Cordell (125) took Ohio's Caleb Metcalfe to 4 overtimes before slipping away with a 2-1 victory.
The march of the freshmen continued with Codie Gustines at 133. For the second straight home match, head coach Craig Turnbull was forced to break a redshirt due to injuries. Gustines, a determined, focused home boy from Charles Town WV picked up opponent Matt Smith and flung him to the ground twice in the match's opening seconds. For a true freshman, his self-assurance and presence were impressive.
"Since I was little and came to my first match, this is what I wanted, to wear the blue and gold," Gustines beamed. "It felt good to be out there. I've worked hard all year, and this was my first chance to show what I can do."
Ironically, his defeated opponent is also a West Virginian, from Ripley. "I wrestled Matt Smith's younger brother in high school," Gustines reported. "It was a funny feeling to meet him again here." Gustines defeated Smith by a score of 5-0.
The third freshman in succession, Vince Gioiella started aggressively, going up 5-1 before being pinned in the second round by Ohio's Jim Fowler. WVU sophomore Teddy Adams kept the underclass banner flying high by defeating Mike Allen 7-3.
After the youngsters made their exit, WVU's accomplished elder statesmen took the floor. Junior Matt Lebe, the 7th ranked wrestler in the nation at 157, dominated Ohio's Aaron Gomool, 18-6. Gomool at times seemed almost to be trying to run away. Every single one of the Bobcat's points were escapes permitted by Lebe. Lebe's body language spoke louder than words, "Get back over here and wrestle me!"
At 165, sophomore Zac Fryling wrestled like a fifth year senior. This kid is going to be a monster before his career is over. "I'm on a good track to peak just right for the post-season," Fryling announced. Every match he shows dramatic improvement. He defeated Tondy DeAnna by a score of 13-6.
Junior Eric Mullen (174) defeated Ryan Knapp 5-1 in an exciting contest marred by terrible officiating. It's hard to have much sympathy for the "he was robbed" argument in such a forceful victory, but from the press box, it appeared that Mullen should have been awarded at least 6 points more than he was.
At this point in the season, your intrepid writer has run out of superlatives for Greg Jones (184). The two-time national champ simply has to be seen to be believed. His opponent for the evening, Brian Cesear, tried hard to look fierce, to no avail. Cesear is not a bad wrestler, but in the presence of the Jedi master, he was an annoying gnat, to be swatted away. Literally. Halfway through the second round, Jones just picked him up and threw him across the mat, not even deigning to notice where he landed, before striding off the mat to attend to a minor injury. Jones returned to pin Cesear in 5:21.
The heavily-taped Mountaineer Jared Villers prevailed over Joel Weimer at 197 by a score of 3-0. It should have been at least 11-0. WVU head coach Craig Turnbull stopped the match to have words with the lazy, incompetent referee. Despite the official's dramatic advantage in height and weight, it looked like Turnbull was about to take his jacket off and go a couple of rounds.
In the heavyweight category, WVU's Matt Holsopple more than held his own with Ohio's senior NCAA qualifier Jeremiah Beltran before being pinned with only a few seconds to go in the match. Turnbull was out arguing a call in this one, too, and rightly so.
125 Shawn Cordell (WVU) dec. Caleb Metcalfe (Ohio) 2-1 (4 OT)
133 Codie Gustines (WVU) dec. Matt Smith (Ohio) 5-0
141 Jim Fowler (Ohio) pinned Vince Gioiella (WVU)
149 Teddy Adams (WVU) dec. Mike Allen (Ohio) 7-3
157 #7 Matt Lebe (WVU) maj. dec. Aaron Gomool (Ohio) 18-6
165 Zac Fryling (WVU) dec. Tondy DeAnna (Ohio) 13-6
174 Eric Mullen (WVU) dec. Ryan Knapp (Ohio) 5-1
184 #1 Greg Jones (WVU) pinned Brian Cesear (Ohio) 5:21
197 Jared Villers (WVU) dec. Joel Weimer (Ohio) 3-1
HWT Jeremiah Beltran (Ohio) pinned Matt Holsopple (WVU) 5:86
* In two years of covering WVU wrestling, tonight's referee was far and away the weakest official I've seen in this sport. Sometimes I wondered whether he was watching the same eompetition I was. The first few matches it seemed he held up his "green" hand no matter which team had scored, but, thankfully, the guy running the scoreboard was able to award the points accurately. The crowd let its fury be known, as several of the Mountaineers should have been awarded more points than they were. I couldn't help but wonder who'd let the Big East into the room.
Assistant coach Whitey Chlebove mused, "He's a new guy. He worked the West Virginia Open. We're banged up, wrestling non-starters, the action was a little slow. I guess he just let it play out."
Whitey, you're a much kinder person than I am.
* Tonight's meet was enlivened by a larger than usual crowd and the presence of the Mountaineer, who was in good form despite a heavy cold. Good to see you, Derek. MO< * The inexperienced Mountaineer freshmen definitely benefitted from the active, vocal support of their bench. Turnbull's grapplers have an incredible team spirit and are vigorous in the encouragement of their teammates. Ohio's bench was sedate by comparison. This is not the first time I've noticed the team spirit this season.
* I saw lots of knee braces on the Mountaineers tonight, which is a little worrisome. "We have injuries," reported Zac Fryling. "That's the way wrestling is. It's a real physical sport." Maybe it's time to buy stock in that tape company.
* The Coliseum announcer (who rarely makes egregious errors) spent the first half of Zac Fryling's match identifying him as Eric Mullen. Anyone who's ever watched Fryling wrestle would definitely not confuse him with anyone else.
* The Mountaineers are getting that fierce gleam in their eyes as the post-season approaches.