Duke wrestling off to fast start at Hokie Open

<p>Redshirt senior Conner Hartmann set the tone for the Blue Devils with a dominant performance at the Hokie Open.</p>

Redshirt senior Conner Hartmann set the tone for the Blue Devils with a dominant performance at the Hokie Open.

Duke hit the mats with a bang to kick off the season—a loud bang.

The Blue Devils wrapped up the Hokie Open Sunday at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va. with a successful outing. As a squad, the team captured three titles and seven top-six finishes en route to the third-highest team score at the event. Duke posted 122.0 points, behind first-place Tennessee-Chattanooga and second-place No. 24 Stanford, which scored 135.5 and 124.0 points, respectively.

“I think the guys wrestled well,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “It was a pretty good tournament. We had a couple more teams than usual—Stanford [and] Columbia. Overall, I thought our guys—for the first outing—performed well.”

No. 3 Conner Hartmann spearheaded the dominant performance for Duke. At 197 pounds, the defending ACC champion rattled off a string of victories on his way to back-to-back Hokie Open titles. After receiving a first round bye, the Port Orchard, Wash., native recorded a pin in 37 seconds in the second round, a 16-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals, an injury default against Jared Haught of Virginia Tech in the semifinals and an authoritative 10-2 win against Scottie Boykin of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the finals.

“[Conner has] been wrestling like that, really just on a mission it seems like,” Lanham said. “In order to win a title, you’re going to have to dominate really solid wrestlers and that’s what he did today—a great performance by him.”

Hartmann’s strong outing was buoyed by the first-place finishes of teammates Connor Bass and Jake Faust in the middle of the lineup. Bass—a junior competing at 157 pounds—defeated No. 20 Markus Schiedel of Columbia 6-4 in his second-round matchup before taking down Jack Clark of North Carolina 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Once in the semifinals, the Yorkville, Ill., native did not look back. Bass won by injury default to move into the finals, where he dismantled Chad Pyke of N.C. State in a 19-1 technical fall victory.

Faust proved just as unstoppable for the Blue Devils. After capturing a pin at the 6:09 mark of his first match, the redshirt sophomore used his momentum to defeat two more opponents to set up a championship bout with No. 4 Jim Wilson of Stanford. Although Wilson was heavily favored, Faust came away with a 6-2 victory for the title.

The rest of Duke’s squad provided some hopeful signs of the season to come for Lanham. Thayer Atkins—returning as the starter at 125 pounds—finished fourth after dropping a close 2-0 match against North Carolina’s Tyrone Klump. In the 141-pound weight class, redshirt freshman Zach Finesilver—who dropped down from 149 in the offseason—and redshirt junior Evan Botwin faced off in the fifth-place match, where Finesilver took the win by injury default.

“I don’t really tend to have one of my wrestlers forfeit to the other,” Lanham said. “I like them to go out there and compete, but it’s tough when you have two wrestlers on the same team [and] one gets hurt by the other one on the same team. That’s the rough part, but it’s wrestling.”

Redshirt senior Trey Adamson—who wrestled at 174 pounds up to this point in his career—moved to the 184-pound weight class this season and found successful results in his first outing, pinning Peter Galli of Stanford for fifth place. Classmate Randy Roden had to find his success the hard way at 174 pounds, though, after dropping his opening match and falling to the consolation bracket. But after the early loss, Roden rattled off four straight wins before falling just shy of winning the fifth-place match.

Sophomore Mitch Finesilver did not quite find the success that carried him into the NCAA tournament at the end of last season in his first tournament at 149 pounds. Although the Greenwood Village, Colo., native qualified for the NCAA tournament at 133 pounds and posted an 11-9 record as a true freshman, he went 2-2 Sunday in his new weight class.

“Obviously, [Mitch is] big enough for the weight, but I think he’s just got to try and get acclimated to that,” Lanham said. “He has to have the confidence that when he gets in certain situations he can score. He’s strong enough, it’s just a mental thing right now.”

After arriving back in Durham, Duke will have two weeks to prepare for its next tournament at the Wolfpack Open Nov. 22.

“There were a couple of things—a lot of things that we need to work on to get better at, but overall, it’s a good start to the season,” Lanham said. “We’ve just got to get our guys comfortable being uncomfortable.”


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