The last time the Blue Devils faced Navy, Duke’s success fell squarely on the shoulders of then-redshirt junior Jacob Kasper in a final heavyweight bout. Unfortunately for the home team, Kasper came just short of a pin to ultimately give the dual to the Midshipmen.

But one year later, the No. 5 heavyweight wasn’t about to let that happen again.

Up against Austin Faunce and with Duke down 22-16, the redshirt senior needed a fall to keep Duke’s hopes alive. After wearing the Navy senior down through the first two periods, Kasper was up 7-0 but frustratingly short of a pin. That is, until the Lexington, Ohio, native found a way to lift Faunce and drop him on his back, earning the pin the Blue Devils desperately needed.

In a tough weekend at home at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke bounced back from a crushing 32-6 defeat to No. 6 N.C. State Friday to come away with a 22-22 Criteria B win against Navy Sunday, emerging victorious since it had one more pin than the Midshipmen. Led by Kasper—who notched his 25th win of the season—the Blue Devils prevailed in several tough matchups to secure their first win at home this season.

“[Kasper] is an iron horse, no doubt,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “Going out, I don't know if he saw the worry on my face, but he goes, 'Coach, relax, I'm going to get the fall.' I believed it, but seeing is believing.”

Although Lanham’s team ended its weekend with a win, the Blue Devils weren’t always successful at home.

Facing a team that sports seven nationally-ranked wrestlers, Duke only notched two wins against the Wolfpack. N.C. State swept the board for the first six bouts, creating an insurmountable 24-0 lead. Although the Blue Devils suffered two technical falls throughout the evening, there were some bright spots for Duke.

Freshman Matt Finesilver upset No. 20 Daniel Bullard in 8-5 in the 174. Finesilver trailed 2-0 in the first period, but responded with an escape and a takedown to take a 3-2 lead. After trading points, the Greenwood Village, Colo., native evened the ledger with an escape before notching one last takedown to take the lead for the rest of the bout. Kasper also came away with a win against the Wolfpack, rallying from an uncharacteristic 6-2 deficit to take the bout 8-6.

“We got beat pretty good Friday night, [but we had] a comeback with a day off,” Lanham said. “We had a great practice on Saturday and had another practice on Sunday—we had a great morning practice—and the guys just wiped it off.”

Despite the tough break against N.C. State, the Blue Devils were not fazed going against the Midshipmen.

Duke rocketed to an early lead with wins in the 125 and the 133 from senior Thayer Atkins and freshman Josh Finesilver, respectively. Entering the third period with a 2-0 lead, Atkins slipped through Aslan Kilic’s grasp to take the advantage, pushing the Navy freshman on his back and giving the Blue Devils an early 6-0 lead. 

Josh Finesilver found himself in a much tighter contest against Cody Trybus. With the second period knotted 2-2, Trybus responded to an escape from Finesilver with a takedown to secure a lead. But the Duke wrestler notched one last escape despite an aggressive surge from Trybus to tie the score 4-4 before earning the Blue Devils a decision based on riding time.

“Obviously, people are going to look at Kasper's [match], but I think Thayer's match at 125—going not only for the takedown but looking for the back points as well—is something we preach a lot,” Lanham said. “That ended up being the deciding factor. Obviously Kasper had to get the fall, but we needed two falls to win the match and we definitely got it.”

The Midshipmen responded by dominating Duke in the 141 and 149 with back-to-back technical falls, putting the Blue Devils behind 10-9, but the other Finesilver brothers stepped up to keep Navy from building momentum. In the 157, Mitch Finesilver crushed Zack Davis with five takedowns, a near-fall and a reversal to give Duke a major decision and the lead again. 

Although Zach Finesilver came just short of another decision for the Blue Devils—falling behind 3-2 in the 165 despite a final push in the third period—his younger brother Matt again gave Duke the lead with a decision against A.J. Alford. Although Matt Finesilver trailed 2-1 through the first two periods, the Blue Devil freshman notched a takedown in the third to secure the win 3-2.

The Midshipmen earned two more victories—a pin on freshman Kaden Russell in the 184 courtesy of No. 17 Michael Coleman and a tight decision against senior Alec Schenck in the 197 from Steban Cervantes thanks to a last-minute takedown—before Kasper knotted the team score.

The Blue Devils will be back in action next Saturday against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

“It's all about ACCs and Nationals for me,” Lanham said. “This was just to learn and get better and keep moving forward.”