No. 4 West Liberty Dominates Hilltopper Duals
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 4-ranked West Liberty University wrestling team carved a wide swath through the field at the inaugural Hilltopper Duals on Friday.
Coach Danny Irwin's defending Mountain East Conference and NCAA Division II regional champions didn't give up an offensive point in blanking No. 22 Fairmont State, 51-0, in the opening match. The host Hilltoppers followed that up with a dominant 39-8 victory in the finale against a Davis & Elkins squad that had also been receiving Top 25 votes.
The Senators had no trouble getting past a skeleton Fairmont State squad, 44-12, in the day's other dual match. The Falcons came into the event with several wrestlers sidelined.
"We caught Fairmont a little short-handed today and D&E was missing a couple of guys, as well," Irwin said, "but we've been going up against some really good competition all season and I think that made a difference. Our guys were attacking all day."
With Fairmont State forfeiting four of the 10 matches in its duals, the Hilltoppers went 14-2 in the 16 bouts that were wrestled during their two dual meet wins. Eleven of those 14 victories were bonus point wins with West Liberty posting three falls, seven technical falls and a major decision in the match.
Those are the kind of numbers that Irwin is seeking from his squad as they look ahead to what they hope will be another deep post-season run.
"That's what it should look like," Irwin said. "We had a lot of guys who went out there today hungry for points, pushing for points. That hunger, that drive. That's West Liberty wrestling!"
With only six matches being contested, the Fairmont State dual wrapped up in less than 30 minutes.
Two-time defending 133-pound national champion Ty Warner wrestled up at 141 and needed less than a minute to pin FSU's Dylan Dennison. Luke Miller (133) and Jamie Kilmer (285) won by decision while Chase Morgan (165), Connor Craig (184) and Logan Kemp (197) all prevailed by technical fall.
It was the 100th career win for Craig, a 3-time NCAA Division II All-American and former national champion currently ranked No. 2 in the country at 184 pounds.
Davis & Elkins sent a full squad onto the mat to challenge WLU and avoided the shutout by scoring wins at 133 and 157. The rest of the dual belonged to the Hilltoppers.
Defending national champion Cole Laya breezed to a first-period fall at 125 pounds, Marcus Jean-Baptiste held off Thomas Williams, 4-2, at 141 and Jacob Simpson rolled to a 12-1 major decision at 141 as West Liberty took a 13-8 lead midway through the match.
Morgan, Ty McGeary (174), Kemp and Kilmer all wrapped technical falls around a second-period fall by Craig to turn a relatively close match into a runaway.
"We had a lot of guys wrestle well but one of the guys who stood out to me was Luke Miller, a freshman who picked up his first two collegiate wins for us today," Irwin said. "Luke's faced some really tough guys because of our schedule but never stopped working hard. He kept himself ready to help the team and it paid off today.
"It's that level of persistence and dedication that builds programs, that sets the tone. We're right where we want to be at this point in the season. Now it's time to take a break and spend some quality time with our families as we refresh and reload in preparation for the National Duals."
Next up for the Hilltoppers is a trip to Louisville, Ky. for the 2022 U.S. Marine Corps/NWCA Multi-Division National Dual Meet Championships. West Liberty was among 24 of the top NCAA Division II programs in the country invited to compete in the event, which is scheduled for Jan. 6-7 inside the mammoth Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville.