Impressive Win for No. 4 West Liberty on Senior Night
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – West Liberty University head wrestling coach Danny Irwin had a huge smile on his face Friday night after seeing his Hilltoppers celebrate Senior Night with a dominating 36-9 victory against Baldwin Wallace (Ohio) in a battle of nationally-ranked squads inside the ASRC.
West Liberty came into the match ranked No. 4 in the latest NWCA Division II coaches’ poll while the Yellowjackets were No. 7 in the most recent NWCA Division III rankings. It was the final home dual of the season for West Liberty and the Hilltoppers rose to the challenge.
“This was our last chance to compete against a really top-quality opponent before our regional championships later this month and the guys really responded,” Irwin said. “We were good and mean tonight in terms of getting to the positions we needed to get to and that’s what it takes in order to compete successfully at the regional and national level.”
Baldwin Wallace, now 16-4 on the season, got off to a fast start with a fall at 165 pounds in the first match of the night but it was all Hilltoppers the rest of the way.
Ty McGeary, ranked No. 3 at 174 pounds, got the hosts on the board with an 18-2 technical fall and Connor Craig, ranked No. 2 at 184, put on a show against BWU’s Luke Salmon, the No. 7-ranked 184-pounder in the NCAA Division II ranks.
Craig, a former NCAA D2 national champion, brought the high-energy match to an abrupt end early in the second period when he took Salmon to his back for a fall at the 3:32 mark.
That combined with a forfeit win by Logan Kemp at 197 put the Hilltoppers ahead to stay but they were far from finished.
Francesco Borsellino, ranked No. 6 at 285 pounds, pitched a 10-0 shutout against Jarod Miller, setting the stage for another highly-anticipated showdown between nationally-ranked foes.
Defending national champion Cole Laya, ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds, squared off against Baldwin Wallace junior Jacob Decatur in what turned out to be the match of the night. Decatur, an Ohio State transfer, is the No. 2-ranked 125-pounder in Division III and came into Friday’s match fresh off a 125-pound title at last weekend’s John Summa Invitational – his fifth open tournament championship of the season.
Neither wrestler could penetrate the other’s defense during a scoreless opening period but Laya gained an important riding time edge by riding out the Yellowjacket standout for the entire second period. Decatur gave up an early escape to Laya at the start of the third period – the first score of the match – in hopes of getting a takedown to negate the riding time advantage. Laya stayed clean the rest of the way and walked off the mat with an impressive 2-0 shutout win.
“The matches involving Laya and Craig really jumped out at me,” Irwin said. “Cole hadn’t been pushed like that for some time and it was good to get a gentle reminder of the type of competition we’ll be facing down the road. Craig was also in against a guy who can really wrestle and as a result, we got to see what happens when Connor turns it up.”
The visitors stopped the bleeding briefly with a major decision at 133 but two-time defending national champion Tyler Warner, ranked No. 12 at 141 pounds, got the hosts back on track with a 17-1 technical fall. Jordan Watters followed with a 14-1 major decision at 149 and senior Christian Rivera capped a spectacular night for the Black and Gold with a 9-7 decision at 157.
Prior to the match, Irwin and his coaching staff honored their outstanding senior class and their families in a special Senior Night ceremony. Marcus Jean-Baptiste, Parker “P.J.” Mazik, Craig, Kemp, Rivera and Warner also shared their thoughts about their favorite memories as a Hilltopper wrestler.
“This senior class has really meant a lot to me,” Irwin said. “We’ve been through a lot together – the guys I inherited when I came here and the ones who chose to follow me up the hill and work together to help get this program back to national prominence.
“They are a very talented group who have won multiple championships at every level but when they talked about their favorite memories tonight, they all said what meant the most to them was the time they got to spend together as part of a very special family. That means the world to me as a coach and they’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Next up for the Black and Gold is a short trip to Wheeling for a dual meet against the rebuilding Cardinal program before turning their full attention to preparations for the NCAA Division II Super Region 3 championships. That one-day meet will be hosted by West Liberty on Feb. 26.
#4 West Liberty 36, #7 Baldwin Wallace 9*
125: #1 Cole Laya (WLU) d. #2 Jacob Decatur (BW), 2-0
133: Jaden Hinton (BW) md. Luke Miller (WLU), 14-5
141: #12 Tyler Warner (WLU) tf. Zak Anderson (BW), (17-1 5:08)
149: Jordan Watters (WLU) md. Justin Ritchie (BW), 14-1
157: Christian Rivera (WLU) d. Tyler Wittreich (BW), 9-7
165: #9 Dalton Leightner (BW) p. Alec Cook (WLU), 4:38
174: #3 Ty McGeary (WLU) tf. Carter Lloyd (BW), (18-2 5:55)
184: #2 Connor Craig (WLU) p. #7 Luke Salmon (BW), 3:32
197: #4 Logan Kemp (WLU) won by forfeit
285: #6 Francesco Borsellino (WLU) md. Jarod Miller (BW), 10-0
165: Brett Goff (WLU) p. Hunter Kupniewski (BW), 2:29
285: Jamie Kilmer (WLU) d. Drew Levis (BW), 3-2
*-Team point deduction (unsportsmanlike)