Short-handed Duke wrestling falls at Appalachian State

<p>Redshirt senior Conner Hartmann continued his dominant start to the season, but the Blue Devils could not grapple their way all the way back from an early deficit.</p>

Redshirt senior Conner Hartmann continued his dominant start to the season, but the Blue Devils could not grapple their way all the way back from an early deficit.

Despite the expectations that accompany a top-25 ranking, a short-handed Blue Devil squad dropped its first dual test of the season on the road.

After reaching a program-best ranking, Duke dropped a 26-14 contest to unranked Appalachian State at Varsity Gym in Boone, N.C., Tuesday night. The Mountaineers jumped out to a quick 10-0 start after two weight classes and did not look back.

The Blue Devils were forced to forfeit at 133 pounds due to a weight issue, and injuries to sophomore Alec Schenk at 174 pounds and redshirt senior Trey Adamson at 184 pounds kept the team from being at full strength in the contest. Heading into the meet, Duke had listed junior Xavi Ramos as the probable wrestler at 133 pounds.

“When you have three guys out of your lineup, it definitely hurts,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “Right now we’re not at the point where we have three starters out to beat a tough team. It would have been a tough match if we had all three of our starters. Hats off to [the Mountaineers]. They wrestled us tough and got one from us.... Where we are with the second man up, we’ve got to be better there."

After dropping their previous two duals against top-25 ACC opponents North Carolina and N.C. State by tight margins, the Mountaineers (4-2) finally pulled through with a dominant win against the third ranked Triangle opponent.

A 12-4 major decision win by junior Vito Pasone against sophomore Thayer Atkins at 125 pounds and the forfeit at 133 seized momentum early for Appalachian State. Although the Mountaineers dropped three straight matches to leave the score knotted at 10-10 at intermission, three straight wins by the home squad allowed Appalachian State to effectively close out a win. Duke (0-1) needed to earn pins in its final two matches, but they did not materialize.

“We’re not a team that can get down and give up a major starting off at 125,” Lanham said. “It’s hard for us to bounce back from that. If you look to our records, we’re not a team that pins a lot of people. We’re a grind-it-out type of team. We’re the triple-option. If you get behind and make us pass, we’re going to have a hard time coming back.”

No. 16 Jake Faust entered Tuesday's match undefeated at 165 pounds, but the redshirt sophomore Blue Devil dropped the first match out of intermission 3-1 against sophomore Forrest Przybysz. Faust’s loss moves his record to 4-1 and kicked off three straight Duke losses that all but sealed the Appalachian State victory.

“If [Faust] continues to wrestle like he’s trying to protect [his ranking], then he’s going to get beat every time,” Lanham said. “If he goes out there and wrestles like he’s capable of when he wrestled [then-No. 4 Jim] Wilson from Stanford—he beat him—then he can compete. If he doesn’t, then anybody can beat him, and that’s what happened tonight.”

In a pivotal matchup at 184 pounds, Duke’s Spencer Neff held a 7-5 lead with less than one minute remaining against sophomore Taylor Jackson. But with just less than 17 seconds on the clock, Jackson sealed the victory for Appalachian State with a pin—a nine-point swing that put the team lead out of reach, 22-10.

Although the team fell short, four individual Blue Devils posted wins. No. 3 Conner Hartmann scored a methodical 8-0 major decision victory to continue his undefeated season and quest for back-to-back ACC titles at 197 pounds. The redshirt senior has only surrendered three points in six matches to his opponents so far this year.

Twin brothers Zach and Mitch Finesilver also posted victories at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively. Zach Finesilver moved to 10 wins on the season in his first career dual match with a 7-6 decision, and after wrestling at 133 pounds last season, Mitch Finesilver captured his eighth victory in his new weight class with a 2-0 decision.

Junior Connor Bass also moved to double-digit wins for the year with an 11-0 major decision against sophomore David Peters-Logue at 157 pounds.

Following the loss, Duke will take a short break for the holidays before heading to Chattanooga, Tenn., for its third tournament at the Southern Scuffle Jan. 1-2. The team will return to dual action against No. 7 N.C. State to kick off the long ACC slate Jan. 6 at Card Gymnasium.

“We’ve got things to work on, now we’ve got to work on them. It’s not getting any easier,” Lanham said. “No one is going to feel sorry for Duke. That’s bottom line. We’ve got to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and get ready to wrestle.”


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