"The people who did wrestle today kept their focus," noted head coach Craig Turnbull. "Without a full lineup, there was a lot of lightness in the locker room, but I'm pleased at the good effort and good performance."
WVU's wiry, 20th ranked senior Seth Lisa opened the meet at 133, scoring an 8-0 major decision over freshman Robert LeBrake. When he gets more experience under his belt, LeBrake is going to be good, but at this point, so much as a point against NCAA qualifier Lisa is out of reach.
At 141, Golden Eagle Greg Lewis manhandled Mountaineer Teddy Adams during the first round, and although Adams came out stronger in the 2nd period, he wasn't able to generate much offense throughout the match. By the time Lewis went to 5-1 with a takedown with 45 seconds left in the contest, the outcome became clear.
Fan favorite freshman David Jauregui, currently ranked 20th in the nation, opened very aggressively at 149, although Derrick Smith took a quick 2-0 lead with a thigh-grabbing takedown. After a little back and forth, Jauregui scored a sneaky response, then quickly followed up with a second two-pointer and 29 seconds of riding time by the early 2nd round on his way to an 18-8 major decision. The Mountaineer grappler took a shot to the eye with 1:37 remaining in the 3rd period and then a couple of kicks to the head, but shook them off to continue to victory.
West Virginia's 20th All-American, second-ranked Matt Lebe, continued his 25-2 roll with an efficient 20-6 pasting of Lucas Christopher. Lebe spent the first three years of his WVU career wrestling in the long shadow of three-time national champion and current assistant coach, Greg Jones. He's not flashy, he's not dramatic, he's just extraordinarily competent, focused, and determined. The hapless Christopher could not come up with any effective offensive strategy for Lebe. Had the referee been in a different location on the mat, he could have awarded Lebe a pin, but he was ill-positioned to recognize that the Golden Eagle's wings were folded.
Senior Eric Mullen of Canandaigua, N.Y., carried the Blue & Gold banner at 165 against the taller freshman Logan Downes. Downes scored a quick takedown to open the match, but Mullen soon settled in to a calm, consistent rhythm. The Clarion wrestler was a little slow to get up at the end of the second period, indicating the effects of the Mountaineer's relentless pressure.
Chance Litton took a 6-2 decision for WVU at 184 against Clarion's Dominic Ross. Litton was on fire; Ross could not escape his attack. Litton never let go of his opponent for a second, showing a higher level of determination and strength than he has previously managed in his first year of college competition. The only two times Litton was in trouble in the match, he managed to drag Ross out of bounds before he could gain a score.
"At the high school level, I was stronger than everyone," Litton reminisced, "and I didn't have to prepare as much. Now you can't take any match for granted. I need to get in better shape. I nearly ran out of gas today, and it's only getting harder as we get into the season."
In the afternoon's final match, former linebacker Matt Holsopple faced, yet again, a much heftier opponent in freshman A. J. Brooks of Lewes, Delaware. Though Holsopple is always stronger and quicker than his big-eating foes, that extra weight is hard to fend off for seven minutes of hand-to-hand combat. The rewards of persistence will come soon; each match Holsopple gets closer to victory. It won't be long until the bigger they are the harder they will fall, but not today.
"It's the nature of the weight class," pointed out Coach Turnbull. "He's on the lighter end, but you get used to it. Matt has been very steady for us. He was in a position to win today, but just couldn't finish it."
125: Scott Stuart, WVU , by forfeit
133: Seth Lisa, WVU, 8-0 maj. dec. over Robert LeBrake, CU
141: Greg Lewis, CU, 5-1 dec. over Teddy Adams, WVU
149: David Jauregui, WVU, 18-8 maj. dec. over Derrick Smith, CU
157: Matt Lebe, WVU, 20-6 maj.dec. over Lucas Christopher, CU
165: Eric Mullen, WVU, 6-3 dec. over Logan Downes, CU
174: Kurt Brenner, WVU, by forfeit
184: Chance Litton ,WVU, 6-2 dec. over Dominic Ross, CU
197: T. R. Chinn, WVU, by forfeit
HWT: A. J. Brooks, CU, dec. 7-5 over Matt Holsopple, WVU
Among the congratulations offered by surprised wrestling fans were lots of exhortations and words of encouragement for the upcoming game against Marshall this Wednesday in Charleston.
"I'm enjoying it," WVU's only three-time national champion smiled. "I think we're getting better as the season goes on. It's a little different being a coach, an adjustment. I'm not finished wrestling myself, though. I'm just getting back from an operation this summer, and now I'm trying to get a problem with my wrist diagnosed." Jones has not abandoned his desire for international competition, and is shooting for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.