WVU Crushes Dukes

Someone old, someone new, something borrowed, and plenty of Mountaineers in blue opened West Virginia University's dual meet wrestling season in the WVU Coliseum with a decisive victory over the Duquesne Dukes, 37-7.

The someone old was Zac Fryling, returning to competition after a year's redshirt and a change of weight class. The someone new – well, there were several someones new in the lineup, with four starters out with injuries. The something borrowed was plenty of rubber gloves and absorbent cloths for wiping blood off the mat, and the something blue was, of course, the classic blue singlets of the Mountaineers.

Head coach Craig Turnbull was pleased that some of his younger wrestlers got experience in a winning effort. "With four starters out, we were able to get wins for some guys who may not see a lot of action this year. It was a good beginning for them, and then ourupperclassmen just dominated. It's nice to start the season this way, with a little bit of swagger."

Although the evening began with 2 losses, the heart of the Mountaineer lineup soon took over the meet, forbidding Duquesne so much as a further team point.

Duquesne's Jon Bittinger, a native of Smithfield, Pa., mere throwing distance from Morgantown, opened the evening at 125 with a quick takedown of West Virginia's Brandon Shapiro, then turned in an impressive performance, scoring 2 near falls in the first 2 ½ minutes to take a commanding 8-0 lead before the first period ended. Shapiro settled down considerably in the opening moments of the second round and held his own thereafter, but that slow start doomed his valiant effort. The 11-0 major decision went to Duquesne and the Mountaineers were down 4-0.

The second match went somewhat better, but not well enough for West Virginia to get some points on the board. At 133, freshman Mark Anderson of Lemoore CA duelled Duke senior Brad Cipriani in one of the evening's better contests. The two were evenly matched, and Anderson showed a nice focus, a determined relentlessness that bodes well for this young wrestler. The score was 5-5 at the end of regulation, but the inexperienced Anderson eventually fell in overtime, 7-5.

With the two early categories out of the way, West Virginia's wrecking crew took over and barely allowed the Dukes a breath of air thereafter. At 141, fifth-ranked sophomore sensation Brandon Rader, the Pride of Parkersburg, marched all over Duquesne's Jayk Cobbs, a freshman from Chesapeake VA. At this stage in his career, Rader is not quite as quick as 3-time All-American Greg Jones was, but he shows the same killer instinct. It was tempting to feel some sympathy for his hapless competitor. Rader pinned Cobbs 2:12 into the match.

A second pin followed at 149, from West Virginia's 9th rated David Jauregui of Santa Ana CA. Jauregui dominated Duquesne's Brandon Baldini from the get-go. He's got that gleam in his eyes, the glare of a fierce competitor who, it turns out, has also become a vocal cheerleader when on the sidelines. Jauregui pinned Baldini with 28 seconds remaining in first period to give WVU a lead it would never relinquish.

"I was kind of tired. I've been sick all week, and then, of course, we finished final exams today" Jauregui confessed, "but it didn't bother me too much. I tried to keep it out of my head." A national ranking is new for the sophomore. "It tells me I have to work harder than I've ever worked before," he said. "I barely lost to some of the wrestlers above me, and that gives me confidence. After all, 9th is one place from being an All American," he pointed out. "I'm right there."

Veteran Zac Fryling returned to action in the 157 pound weight class, after a mid-career redshirt year. He's better suited to 157 than he was 165, but he wrestled at 165 for two years because All American Matt Lebe sat ahead of him at 157.

"It's good to be back," he smiled. "It feels good to be at 157. It's better for my height. I feel faster, quicker, stronger, and it's more efficient for my body type."

Fryling wasted no time proving his point, with a 19-3 technical fall over Duquesne junior Cody Midlam of Dayton OH. Fryling, who was surrounded by hordes of young, autograph-seeking fans at evening's end, is a lot of fun to watch. He's a very scrappy wrestler, with a low center of gravity and a twinkle in his eye. He took a quick 5-1 lead, then just continued to pile up the scores as the match progressed.

At 165, WVU's Eric Connolly brought a likable enthusiasm to the mat, trotting back from the edges of the mat to the center when the referee blew the whistle. He lost his headpiece halfway thru the 2nd period so the audience could see his strawberry curls, but he didn't hesitate to continue without all the necessary equipment. This was a very gritty match, with Dukes freshman Ryan Sula scoring a scary, head-first takedown of Connolly early on, and some blood on the mat before the home team favorite came up with a 7-5 decision.

Joe Clutter started the match for WVU at 174 with a 2-1 lead before losing a contact lens and some blood with 19 seconds remaining in the first round. WVU's ever-efficient training staff had the lens cleaned and returned to Clutter's eye in an instant. He never missed a beat, returning the favor to Duquesne's Scott Black a minute or so later when Black dripped some crimson on the mat and had to pause for a forehead wipe. Despite all the drama, Clutter ended up with a workman-like 4-3 victory.

Parkersburg's Chance Litton at 184 was considerably more dominant versus Duquesne senior Jared Ricotta than the scoring would have suggested. He is a much more confident wrestler this year, cagier and better able to execute his strategy. The long, lean sophomore took a 6-3 decision.

At 197, Jared Villers is coming on strong, entering tonight's contest with a 10-2 record and momentum that carried into the evening. Before the first period ended, the junior from Akron OH already had an 11-0 lead over Duquesne senior Tim Frank. It took him less than a minute of the second period to gain a 16-0 technical fall to extend the Mountaineers' dominance.

It was clear from the opening seconds of his match that WVU heavyweight Matt Holsopple is much improved and much more confident than when last he donned the gold and blue. He pinned his opponent, Joe D'Orsie, 1:50 into the match. "I just went after him with my own work ethic, my own ideas, and gave him no chance to get into his own routine. This is how Brandon Rader approaches every match, and I think everyone on the team should do that," Holsopple announced.

125: Jon Bittinger DUQ 11-0 maj dec vs. Brandon Shapiro WVU
133: Brad Cipriani DUQ 7-5 dec vs. Mark Anderson WVU
141: #5 Brandon Rader WVU fall vs. Jayk Cobbs DUQ
149: #9 David Jauregui WVU fall vs. Brandon Baldini DUQ
157: Zac Fryling WVU 19-4 tech fall vs. Cody Midlam DUQ
165: Eric Connolly WVU 7-5 dec vs. Ryan Sula DUQ
174: Joe Clutter WVU 4-3 dec vs. Scott Black DUQ
184: Chance Litton WVU 6-3 dec vs. Jared Ricotta DUQ
197: #16 Jared Villers WVU 16-0 tech fall vs. Tim Frank DUQ
HWT: Matt Holsopple WVU fall vs. Joe D'Orsie DUQ
Final score: WVU 37 DUQ 7


  • Once again, there were entirely too few fannies in the seats. This is a top 20 program with a couple of wrestlers who are well positioned to make runs at national championships. They deserve better fan support. It's only $5, for pete's sakes. What else can you possibly do for entertainment on a chilly Friday night at the end of finals week that's a better value?

  • Greg Jones has now officially completed the transition from competitor to coach. He showed up this evening just as well dressed as his head coach and his predecessor, Zeke Jones, who were always the most sartorially splendid mentors at WVU. Greg was wearing a black suit, gray shirt and pink tie, looking very elegant.

  • Greg wasn't the only well-dressed Mountaineer. The contrast between Duquesne's inexpensive black sweatsuits and WVU's proper warm-ups was noticeable.

  • Upon entering the Coliseum, a few intrepid fans groaned at the sight of tonight's official. He was the same referee who forgot his assignment on a wintry Friday night last season and didn't leave Washington DC until about the time the meet should have begun, making for a very late evening. This year he was much more focused and professional, much to the collective relief of the Blue and Gold faithful.

  • There's an appealing sense of solidarity among this group of athletes. David Jauregui, in particular, could be heard exhorting his teammates from the sidelines, and some of the other Mountaineers were quick to praise and credit their colleagues for playing a role in their own improvement since last season. That kind of leadership and collegiality always bodes well for team success.

  • The Mountaineers' next home contest is not until February 9 when they take on Ohio University at 8 p.m. in the Coliseum.

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