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Flames Take Com­mand With 10 in Semi­fi­nals; Apprentice 2nd

| Scott Farrell

ALLEN, Texas –Liberty took control of the NCWA Championships Friday morning advancing 10 wrestlers into the semifinals with another four alive in the consolation rounds as the early session concluded at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center. The three-time defending NCWA champions are far ahead of the field with 135 points, outpacing rival Apprentice School’s 98.5.

The national semifinals begin Friday night at 6:30 p.m. Coverage, videos and brackets can be found at FLO Sports / Arena.

It took no time for Liberty to assert itself as Jaylen Fyffe and Dante Mininno both advanced in the 125-pounde bracket to start the morning session. Liberty’s 63.5 points led Grays Harbor College’s 50 following the first day’s action. Fyffe’s win, a 5-3 decision of GHC’s Donnie Krisssak, pushed that lead out ever further as the 13th-seed overtook the 5-seed. Mininno, the second seed, eased to a 14-5 win and Liberty was on its way.

Apprentice can push Liberty with wins in the semifinals, especially at the first two weights, but for the moment has a strong grip on second place. Top-seed Bruno Alves scored a major decision to win in the quarters at 125 and will face Fyffe in the semi’s. Dillon Messick, also the top seed but at 133, advanced as well with a third-period pin on Grays Harbor’s Jeremy Roberts, a surprise quarterfinalist as a 25-seed following a superb Thursday showing. Those two wins surged Apprentice into second place.

Grays Harbor is in third with 82 points going into Friday night.

Liberty’s Logan Robertson also won his quarterfinal at 133. The Flames’ other top-ranked wrestlers advanced to the semi’s: Garrett Good (141 lbs.), David Over (165), two-time national champion Jeff Allen (235) and Rick Weaver (285), the national runner-up in 2020. Good will face Apprentice’s Zachary Ortega in one of the 141 semi’s in a key match. Also among the Flames’ 10 semifinalists is Ian McIlhenny, the 8-seed at 157, who upset the top-seed Zachary Snyder of Toledo by fall in 1:50 in the quarters.

Charles Hudson fell to top-seed Ty’Rae Carter of Texas A&M in the 149 quarterfinals but remains one win away from a third All-America bid in the consolation bracket.

As for Carter, the two-time Most Outstanding Wrestler from the 2019 and 2020 NCWA Championships, he stands in good shape for a run at a third. He has already clinched a third All-America honor and aims to become the first wrestler to earn MOW honors three times on the men’s side. Carter faces Parker Watson of the Ohio State Wrestling Club in the semifinals following a 24-8 major decision over Hudson Friday morning. Andrew Halko of Akron, the third seed, takes on second seed Joseph Pacaitis of Penn State Wrestling Club in the other semifinal in one of two weight classes in which all four top seeds reached the semifinals.

Peter Cortapasso of Apprentice could give the Builders an Apprentice-Liberty finals match is he can advance tonight along with Weaver. Also key for the Builders is 3-seed John Pierce at 235, who faces 2-seed Octavio Alejandre of GHC in the semi’s.

Ohio State WC leads the D-II standings again with 78.5 points but is in fourth place overall. Penn State WC is just behind OSU with 70 points. Ohio State WC is bolstered by its strong middleweight lineup that begins with Watson. At 157, the Buckeyes have two semifinalists in Pozdneev and third-seeded Moustapha Bal, which grinded out a 5-3 decision in the quarters. Ben Blickle came through at 165 to reach the semi’s with an 8-4 decision. Graham Carson also reached the semi’s with a second-period pin in the 184 quarters.

Penn State WC, the three-time defending Division II champion, has Pecaitis in the semi’s along with John Arentz, who got a 45-second pin Friday morning to advance as the 11-seed in the 174 bracket, and Danny Starr, another upstart as the 13-seed at 197 who will face top-seed Bruno Halo of Grays Harbor in the semi’s.