Wounded WVU Wrestlers Forge Tie

"This could have gotten real ugly."

WVU head coach Craig Turnbull heaved a sigh of relief that the injury-depleted Mountaineers managed a tie with Edinboro University in the WVU Coliseum Thursday night.

The 21st-ranked Blue and Gold were kept in contention, and nearly led to victory, by a poised, determined group of underclassmen.

"These last four dual meets will be like this with our injury situation," Turnbull reported. "We have too many inexperienced guys wrestling, but they are battling hard and giving us a chance to win."

After the first nine matches, WVU led Edinboro, 20-17, not enough to ensure a victory. Everything depended on the results of the evening's final contest, between Edinboro's Joe Hennis, the returning Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) champion and NCAA qualifier, and WVU's Matt Holsopple, who only joined the wrestling team a few short weeks ago when , like Lemony Snicket, a series of unfortunate events left the Mountaineers without a heavyweight. The sturdy Hennis – who resembles Gimli the dwarf from the "Lord of the Rings" films – not only held a dramatic advantage in experience, but he also had a good 30 or 40 pounds on the considerably buffer Holsopple.

The Mountaineer bench was on their feet, cheering Holsopple on, and the Coliseum faithful did their part as well, stomping, shouting, and making the arena rock. Little Julian Chlebove, the 4-year old son of WVU assistant coach Whitey Chlebove, couldn't stand the tension, jumped from the stands, and ran to the WVU sidelines, so he could cheer with "the big guys." Holsopple stayed within one point of Hennis until the final 12 seconds of the match, but Hennis finally took him by a score of 8-6, and the tie was achieved.

In earlier action, true freshman Codie Gustines (133) of Charles Town WV hung in there with top-ranked Shawn Bunch.

"Codie remained poised, didn't panic," said Coach Turnbull. "Most freshmen would get that ‘deer in the headlights' look when faced with a potential national champion, but Codie made him earn every point."

Indeed, Gustines managed to keep his team in the running by avoiding the extra points associated with a pin or technical fall, a major accomplishment in only his second night of varsity action. Without question, Shawn Bunch is the second-best wrestler to compete in the Coliseum this season.

The best, of course, is WVU's two-time national champion, Greg Jones, at 184. Edinboro's sacrificial lamb, sophomore Jim Gibson, lasted only 13 seconds before Jones pinned him.

At 165, WVU's Zac Fryling fell to Edinboro's 11th-ranked Nate Yetzer, the returning EWL champion in this weight class.

"Zac wrestled brilliantly the first 2 periods," Turnbull commented., "but he didn't quite have the confidence to sustain the whole match. Yetzer's too good for that. But this was the best Zac has wrestled all year. Hopefully he will take the confidence out of that to the EWL tournament."

Jared Villers of WVU dominated Paul Burger at 197. The match was stopped with 26 seconds remaining in the second round when Villers took a 16-0 lead. Villers looks like a commercial for duct tape, with both wrists, a knee, and an elbow covered in the stuff. Duct tape really will hold just about anything together.

At 141, Mountaineer Vince Gioiella defeated Rick McLaughlin 9-6, with the injured Brandon Lauer exhorting his teammate from the sidelines. Gioiella acquitted himself honorably, but Lauer's courage and sportsmanship are truly inspiring. This should have been Lauer's match; in fact, this should have been Lauer's year.

"I feel like it's important to stay involved, even though my season is over," he insisted. "Leadership does not stop with an injury. I know how hard my teammates work and I want to see them reach their goals." Lauer is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery on March 3. "Rehab will take 8 months," he sighed. "I'm in limbo now. I don't know whether I will continue or not. I will decide after the surgery."

Ryan Wilman's injury sent Eric Mullen to do battle with Edinboro's 19th-ranked Eric Ring at 174. Mullen managed a two-point take down right at the match's end to avoid a major decision and the extra point which would have given Edinboro the win.

"Eric avoided the loss for us," Coach Turnbull pointed out. "In a dual meet, it's so important to blend individual goals and team goals, and each wrestler has to focus on giving up as few points as possible."

"The injuries are just killing us," assistant coach Whitey Chlebove admitted. "Brandon [Lauer] and Mike [Torriero] both had a chance to make the national finals, and now they're both out for the season."

Head Coach Craig Turnbull reported that Mike Torriero will see a neurosurgeon tomorrow morning. Torriero has three herniated discs in his neck, and is experiencing numbness in both arms.

"He wants to take the risk and finish out the season," his coach worried aloud, "but he is medically disqualified until we hear otherwise." Seth Lisa is poised to return to action for the post-season, although he is still quite sore, but it is unclear whether Ryan Wilman will be back this year.

Freshman Codie Gustines spoke for the whole team: "This team has my back, and I have theirs. We're in this together, and we'll do our best whatever happens."

125: Shawn Cordell (WVU) dec. Greg Sill (EU), 5-0
133: #1 Shawn Bunch (EU) maj. dec. Codie Gustines (WVU) 20-7
141: Vince Gioiella (WVU) dec. Rick McLaughlin (EU) 9-6
149: Ron Doppelheuer (EU) pinned Teddy Adams (WVU) in 1:43
157: #7 Matt Lebe (WVU) dec. Matt Hill (EU) 7-5
165: #11 Nate Yetzer (EU) maj. dec. Zac Fryling (WVU) 15-7
174: #19 Eric Ring (EU) dec. Eric Mullen (WVU) 9-2
184: #1 Greg Jones (WVU) pinned Jim Gibson (EU) in :13
197: Jared Villers (WVU) tech. fall Paul Burger (EU), 16-0
HWT: Joe Hennis (EU) dec Matt Holsopple (WVU), 8-6

Final score: #21 WVU 20, Edinboro 20


* There were seven photographers at tonight's meet, far more than the usual one or two. What was that about? When did Edinboro start attracting paparazzi?

* Each and every person on the Mountaineer sideline was intently focused on every single match, a dramatic contrast with the louche Edinboro bench.

* The officiating was considerably better tonight. Thank you, EWL.

* Fashion Report #1: Somebody finally bought assistant coach Whitey Chlebove a tie, and he looked his best in a white button-down shirt and tan cords. Even so, it may be a while before he equals Jones & Turnbull, the best dressed coaches in all Mountaineerdom.

* Fashion report #2: I think we should spring for some blue & gold head gear for our wrestlers. The white looks ok, but blue & gold would be a much more elegant match with the uniforms. Edinboro had red & black headgear to match their uniforms and it looked really sharp.

* Fashion report #3: Somebody needs to buy Edinboro some proper warmup suits to replace their gray sweats. They have a top-notch wrestling program and deserve to look the part.

* Edinboro University's teams are known as the "Fighting Scots." I kept looking for Mel Gibson, but Braveheart never showed.

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