Clash of the Titans

If there was ever a better evening of wrestling in the West Virginia Coliseum, it's hard to imagine.

WVU and Eastern Wrestling League foe Bloomsburg were as well matched and well prepared as any two teams could be and they put on as good a show as any wrestling fan has ever witnessed Friday night. Things started slowly for the home team, but the middle of the Mountaineer lineup forced a battle of epic proportions. A rowdy crowd effusively enjoyed the spectacle, which ended in a 21-12 Mountaineer victory.

Kyle Turnbull at 125 faced a tough, quick, determined opponent in 11th-ranked Mike Sees. Nevertheless, at the end of their first round, with Sees leading 4-2, it was the Bloomsburg Husky who needed medical attention. Sees was injured in practice yesterday and came into Morgantown with six fresh stitches over his eye. When the wound opened up, the referee called an injury timeout and an impressive wrap was wound around his head. Although it appeared that Turnbull's opponent was now a mummy, or perhaps a character from "Dawn of the Dead," it didn't slow him down any. Just when it looked like Sees was going to open the evening with major bonus points in a demoralizing victory, Turnbull came very close to pinning him in the late seconds of the match, and successfully held the point total down before his first-ever Coliseum loss at 15-10.

Mountaineer Mentor Craig Turnbull identified a positive in the loss. "I don't feel Kyle got his best meet out, but that was probably the best guy he's wrestled since he's been here. He was poised enough to keep from giving up extra points at the beginning, and that was a big help to the team."

Jared Garvin (133), sporting an impressive tattoo across his back, gave Jason Guffey his best shot, but the Mountaineer was inexperienced against such a tough competitor. With a 10-3 victory, the visiting team went ahead 6-0.

At 141, Steve Waite faced Bloomsburg's Darren Kern. After getting his first-ever victory as a Mountaineer Thursday night against Clarion, the freshman grappler brought a new determination to the mat. After a round and a half, Kern held only a 2-1 lead. The Husky edged ahead through the second half of competition, but Waite proved that wrestling is as much about flexibility as it is strength before dropping the match 7-2.

With the heart of the Mountaineer lineup taking the stage, the home team was down 9-0. David Jauregui at 149 wasted no time addressing the imbalance. "He just imposed his will," according to his head coach. Jauregui is more aggressive this year. Dennis Bermudez wasn't about to give in, though, and after the first round, there were no points on the board. Jauregui finally got a takedown 80 seconds into the second period, going up 2-1 but Bermudez countered with an escape, tying the score at the end of two. The Californian went into the last two minutes with a gleam of determination in his eye. The final outcome was in doubt until the last second, when Jauregui brought the roaring crowd to its feet with a 3-2 victory.

"We lost to Bloomsburg last year at their place and we knew we would have a tough battle," Jauregui smiled, "but we are tough to beat at home. The crowd tonight was great. We knew we were going to come to battle and they were going to come to battle. Our guys came through in the critical moments."

A second barnburner pitted 18th-ranked Mountaineer Zac Fryling against 17th-ranked Matt Moley. After only a minute's competition, Fryling's bloody nose interrupted the action for cleanup. Another minute of wrestling brought another wipe of the mat and pause in the action. Fryling has always been among the scrappiest of Mountaineers and this was among the scrappiest matches he has wrestled for the Blue and Gold. If ever two were well matched, it was these EWL veterans. Neither fell for any of the tricks in the other's carpetbag. Wrapped in swaddling cloths around his injured wrist and staunching the flow from his nose, WVU's Fryling would not be denied. Going into the final two minutes, Fryling was still bleeding and scoreless. His first point came from an escape seven seconds into the final period, tying the score at one. At the end of regulation, the single-point tie continued the action into overtime. The Coliseum faithful and Fryling's teammates were on their feet, cheering, clapping, exhorting. With six seconds remaining in the fourth period, Fryling finally got the takedown and the match at 3-1.

"Zac's win was critical, so, so important, especially for seeding in the EWL tournament. Moley had just beat Coker at Pitt, who is #3 in the country. That match win was important for his development and crucial for the team," Craig Turnbull stated.

The kid brother of two of WVU's most famous wrestlers finally competed in the Coliseum at 165 after two seasons lost to injury. The last of the Jones boys, Donnie, carries the same long torso and aggressive attitude of siblings Vertus and Greg. After quickly falling behind 4-0, the Son of Slickville, Pa. soon had his elder brother/assistant coach applauding from the sidelines.

Jones' lower body and leg strength are good. He moves like a gymnast on the balance beam, using a hard kick to propel himself and his opponent into a favorable position. At the end of the second round, with the score tied 4-4, the Coliseum chairs were starting to rattle. Jones took charge in the last two minutes, dominating Rickey Schmelyun. Those Jones boys come with good training and killer instincts. With a 6-5 victory, the Mountaineers were in a 9-9 tie on the evening.

The head coach had high praise for Jones. "Donnie has been out of competition for a year and a half or so and he has really been struggling with his confidence. He had a couple of wins that slipped away, but this time, with the team on the line, he dug deep and found something extra that he needed to come out on top. From a season standpoint, that's probably a very critical win for him, to get him that confidence."

Chance Litton (174) walked onto the mat to the cheers of as intense and excited an audience as the Coliseum has ever held. The homeboy from Parkersburg did not disappoint, flinging the maroon and gold-clad Brian Shaw through the air and onto his knees. He rode much of the second period before executing another acrobatic take-down, eventually pushing Shaw out of bounds. Litton wrestled like a man on fire – or perhaps a man whose couch is on fire. There is a new intensity in him, a new level of desire and purpose and maturity. His 9-2 win put the Mountaineers into their first lead of the evening at 13-9.

Litton is certainly pleased with his progress. "I'm wrestling at 174 this year and that's making a big difference. Everybody's actually my size. I've been wrestling at 184 the last two years and it seems things are starting to fall into place for me. My confidence is rising, I'm going to keep getting better, and hopefully I can place at Nationals."

Kurt Brenner and Bloomsburg's Jesse Hasseman stepped in for the 184 bout, another evenly-matched game of intensity and concentration at the highest level. The sturdy Brenner gave up an inch or two of wingspan to the longer, leaner Husky, but eventually prevailed at 6-3.

West Virginia's 12th-ranked 197 pounder, Jared Villers, took on Eric Shaw and continued the Mountaineer run. Villers went up 8-0 in the first minute of the second round before another time out for blood removal paused the action. Within a few seconds he'd gone to 13-0 and the hapless Shaw struggled to avoid being put out of his misery altogether. With 49 seconds remaining in the middle period, Villers scored a 16-0 technical fall.

Heavyweight Dustin Rogers, knowing that a Mountaineer victory was in the can with a 21-9 lead, met the evening's highest-ranked grappler, Bloomsburg's #9 Mike Spaid. The #17 Rogers was not intimidated, however. Spaid scored first with a two-point takedown, but Rogers responded with an escape and a pounce. After a stalemate brought them back to center mat, the big boys went at it again. Spaid opened the third period with a 3-1 lead, then accumulated some riding time before the surprisingly agile Rogers flung him aside. Another takedown and 11 seconds of holding on got Spaid the 6-2 battle but not the war.

"Overall it was a very good meet on our part," Turnbull said. "It was a dual meet they were slightly favored to win. It was really hard fought. They have some good, good wrestlers. We have to take these one at a time, so now we have a week off, and hopefully we'll get a good match out next Sunday."

West Virginia's 21-12 victory took the Mountaineers to 5-3 on the season and 2-0 in the EWL.

Final Results:

125: #11 Mike Sees, Bloomsburg, 15-10 dec. over Kyle Turnbull, WVU

133: Jason Guffey, Bloomsburg, 10-3 dec. Jared Garvin, WVU

141: Darren Kern, Bloomsburg, 7-2 dec. Stephen Waite, WVU

149: David Jauregui, WVU, 3-2 dec. Dennis Bermudez, BU

157: #18 Zac Fryling, WVU, 3-1 dec. #17 Matt Moley, BU

165: Donnie Jones, WVU, 6-3 dec. Rickey Schmelyun, BU

174: Chance Litton, WVU, 9-2 dec. Brian Shaw, BU

184: Kurt Brenner, WVU, 6-3 dec. Jesse Hasseman, BU

197: #12 Jared Villers, WVU, 16-0 tech. fall Eric Shaw, BU

HWT: #9 Mike Spaid, BU, 6-2 dec. #17 Dustin Rogers, WVU

Attendance: 634

Rifle Reports

Once again the evening's festivities began with a live vocalist to perform the national anthem. A number of these sorts of details have been upgraded for wrestling this year, including a flashy new media guide and free giveaway posters of a different WVU team member each meet. Last night's poster was Zac Fryling and tonight's was Kurt Brenner.

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Although the referee's eagle eyes were appreciated, he got knocked around a little tonight. Next time he might not want to stand quite so close to the wrestlers.

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Bloomsburg brought a substantial and vocal crowd. Loudest of all, however, was Bloomsburg head coach John Stutzman. Even from the Coliseum floor, he seemed to invade the space of everyone in the building. He makes Bob Huggins look like the calmest of Zen masters. Even a Bloomsburg staffer admitted his head coach is a bit much sometimes. I don't know how the wrestlers were able to concentrate under the withering patter.

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Tonight's crowd was awesome -- the best at a WVU home wrestling meet in at least three years -- and it made a difference in some tightly-contested matches. Keep it coming. The Mountaineers' next home match is February 3 at 1 p.m. against EWL opponent Lock Haven. Five bucks admission, a box of popcorn, a great seat near the action, and you can have the best entertainment in town.

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