The Duke wrestlers made a common mistake on Friday. In their eagerness to wrestle Atlantic Coast Conference opponent North Carolina State on Tuesday, they looked past the match in front of them. And while the Blue Devils (6-6) were looking ahead, Division II Gardner-Webb wrestled tough for a 28-20 win.
"They've done well in the past," senior Jesse Raia said, "but we could have beat them-should have beat them. We went, but things just didn't work out."
Duke traded individual match-ups with Gardener-Webb for most of the meet. GW, however, edged the Blue Devils out for the victory.
The first three contests of the match were decided by pins. Gardner-Webb's Ben Mobley pinned Duke's Steve Setner for the opener. In the 128-pound weight class, Duke's Chris Heckel turned it around by pinning Anthony Baker in just over a minute. Then, at 134-lb., Blue Devil Sean Makim was pinned. The decisive nature of these match-ups stunned the Devils.
"[The pins] were sort of back-to-back," junior Matt Mapes said. "It just sort of hit everybody. If we could have just left by decision, or even won one of them, we could have won the match."
At 142-lb., the Devils' Cameron Stock won the first non-pin of the match, defeating Pete Scott 11-5. Standing at two victories each, this set the stage for one of the match's critical points.
Duke's regular wrestler at 150-lb. was sick, so freshman Bill Morris, normally a 158-lb. wrestler, moved down a class to wrestle in his place. Morris struggled, but was finally edged out by Gardner-Webb's Stephen Short, 8-7.
"Morris... definitely could have won," Raia said. "If a couple of guys had just kept the scores down or not gotten pinned, we would have won."
From there, the match-ups were nothing if not clear-cut. Duke's Sage Berg-Cross was defeated 19-6. Mapes was put against a converted 158-pounder in the 167-lb weight class. Though unable to earn the pin, he still dominated Gardner-Webb's Jason Hyler 18-3. Gardner-Webb's Rich Cox returned the favor at 177-lb., beating Dion Santo 18-3. To close off the match, Gardner-Webb's James Short defeated Raia 10-2.
Duke's final victory came from a forfeit, as Gardner-Webb was unable to field a heavyweight opponent to match with sophomore Alex Hunt.
Next, the Blue Devils will return to the mats for the match they were looking forward to on Friday-versus N.C. State in Cameron Tuesday night. After that, only the ACC tournament remains for Duke.
"Right now, we just have to overlook this loss," Mapes said. "It was one match , that's it. We just have to focus, concentrate on N.C. State and ACC's because that's what's important. We have to move forward."
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