Duke wrestling heads to Appalachian State for first dual meet

<p>Third-ranked Conner Hartmann will be back in the lineup for the Blue Devils Tuesday as No. 24 Duke breaks a three-week absence from competition with a dual meet against the Mountaineers.</p>

Third-ranked Conner Hartmann will be back in the lineup for the Blue Devils Tuesday as No. 24 Duke breaks a three-week absence from competition with a dual meet against the Mountaineers.

The Blue Devils may have been absent from competition for more than three weeks, but after conquering finals and receiving their highest ranking in program history, they are ready to take the mats in their first dual competition of the season.

No. 24 Duke will look to build on the success of its first two tournaments as it travels to Boone, N.C., to take on Appalachian State at Varsity Gym Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. After picking up 13 top-six finishes—including multiple titles—in the opening two weekends of competition, the Blue Devils are ready to hit the road for their first dual matchup.

“It’s going to be a good matchup for us and test us a little bit,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “We’re excited to finally get the finals out of the way and get back into competition…. [The dual format] gets a little more intense just trying to get guys ready.”

Following a big start to the season, Duke broke into the top 25 for the first time under Lanham. Although the program is not currently ranked in dual meet rankings, the Blue Devils reached No. 23 in tournament team rankings—the highest point in program history—before settling in at No. 24 last week. After proving itself in tournament outings, Duke will look to capitalize on its first opportunity in a dual to gain the same recognition in dual rankings for the first time as well.

Two nationally ranked grapplers are expected to headline the Blue Devil lineup against the Mountaineers. After being held out of the Wolfpack Open Nov. 22, No. 3 Conner Hartmann and No. 16 Jake Faust will return to the lineup this week. Both Hartmann and Faust are undefeated on the mats this year at 197 pounds and 165 pounds, respectively.

“We definitely need [Hartmann and Faust] in the lineup for this one, so they’ll be back in the lineup,” Lanham said. “They’re looking healthy…and they’ll be ready to go.”

Appalachian State (3-2) may have something to say about the undefeated grapplers in Duke’s lineup and their quest to climb the national rankings. With five dual meets under their belts, the Mountaineers will look to build upon their own early-season momentum and spoil the road trip for the Blue Devils.

Despite its two losses, Appalachian State has pushed its competition in the early portion of the season. Both defeats came at the hands of top-25 ACC opponents—North Carolina and N.C. State. Appalachian State fell short against the Tar Heels 24-12, but kept it even closer against the Wolfpack, dropping the dual, 21-14.

“Those guys are going to come out intense,” Lanham said. “They have some studs at a lot of their weights, so it’s going to be a good dual. They’re sound. They’ll wrestle seven minutes hard—they’re a lot like us. They’re going to come out there and they’re not going to hold back.”

Redshirt sophomore Nick Kee received Southern Conference Wrestler of the Week honors for the second time in his career after a 5-3 decision against three-time NCAA qualifier John Michael Staudenmayer of North Carolina and a 13-3 major decision against Lee Davis of N.C. State—a victory that tied the dual at 14 with two matches remaining. Kee is 13-3 in competition this season at 174-pounds, including an undefeated 5-0 stretch in duals.

In the heavyweight division, No. 11 Denzel Dejournette will look to dominate Duke's Brendan Walsh at the back end of the lineup. The defending Southern Conference heavyweight champion is 12-1 overall this season with a 4-1 clip in duals for Appalachian State, suffering his one loss to the Wolfpack’s Nick Gwiazdowski—the back-to-back national champion in the weight class.

“I think it’ll be a good match [at heavyweight],” Lanham said. “But hey, like any coach, would you want it coming down to the last match? Probably not. We’d [rather] have it locked up way before then, but if it does, we’ve got to be confident in Brendan.”


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