After posting three ACC wins for the first time in over 40 years, and beating UNC for the first time in more than 30 years, it seemed fitting that the Duke wrestling team would conclude its season with a home win on senior night against Gardner-Webb.
Without the TV cameras, band or energetic announcer usually present in Cameron Indoor Stadium for sporting events, the Blue Devils (9-7) wrestled to a 25-12 victory over the Bulldogs (6-20) Wednesday.
Senior Michael Mitchell set the tone for the team with a 12-4 opening win over Gardner-Webb's Michael Ard at 165-pounds.
While his last home meet had special meaning for Mitchell, he is looking ahead to the ACC tournament.
"This is just another match preparing me to attain my ultimate goal, which is to be an ACC champion," Mitchell said. "I definitely have the talent and the potential, but it's just a matter of everything coming together."
Senior Tim Marcantonio also celebrated his final dual meet with a victory, winning 7-1 in the 197-pound weight division. Marcantonio dominated Brent Blackwell going into the final period with a 3-0 edge. He increased his lead in the final two minutes with a takedown, a stalling point and a point for the match's riding time.
"Tim, I thought, did a great job," head coach Clar Anderson said. "He loosened up and beat a pretty tough kid."
While the meet highlighted the talent of the two Duke seniors, there was also a very strong showing by the younger talent on the squad.
Following Gardner-Webb's first scoring of the dual-meet, junior Frank Cornely pinned John Loff to swing the momentum back in Duke's direction in the third matchup of the night. Two bouts later, freshman Christian Smith pinned the Bulldogs' Jonathan Neal at the 4:48 mark for his team-leading ninth pin of the season.
"Once we got the two pins, it pretty much put them out of it," Anderson said.
Freshman Antwone Floyd also had an impressive showing with a 10-4 win over Adam Glaser at 149-pounds to conclude the meet.
Coming off Tuesday night's tough loss against N.C. State, Anderson was worried the team might have been discouraged. However, with this final dual-meet win, the Blue Devils are set to make an impact in the ACC tournament.
"We're going to vie for the [ACC tournament] championship," Anderson said. "I'm going to be telling them that and hopefully they'll be believing it and we'll be showing it."
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