As 2019 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils.
Coming in at No. 10: Mitch Finesilver caps off his storied Duke wrestling career with an accolade-filled All-American senior campaign, placing fourth at the NCAA championships and earning an ACC championship.
The start of the 2019-2020 season marks the beginning of the end of the Finesilver era of Duke wrestling.
Bookended by two sets of twins each competing at different weight divisions—the eldest two of Zach and Mitch at 165 and 149, respectively, followed two years behind by Josh and Matt at 141 and 174—the Blue Devils enjoyed two years of having four gritty and talented wrestlers all from the same household. And as Duke moves towards the tail end of the Finesilver dynasty, the Blue Devils can't forget the dominant run Mitch Finesilver put together to end his career.
Through the entirety of last season, Mitch Finesilver was gunning for nothing less than a deep NCAA tournament run. After dropping from 157 pounds to 149, Finesilver used his experience grappling with heavier opponents to dominate in his weight division, posting a 33-5 record, good for sixth in the all-time Duke single-season win chart. The Greenwood Village, Colo., native's only losses would come at the hands of top-20 opponents, posting a perfect record through ACC and dual-meet play.
As one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever suit up for the Blue Devils, Finesilver's 2019 was one filled with an endless reel of highlight moments.
Early on in regular season play, Finesilver firmly established himself as a top-10 wrestler in his weight class with a magnificent 10-0 major decision against No. 8 Justin Oliver of N.C. State. Getting the scoring going early with a takedown and refusing to let the pressure up, the redshirt senior refused to let up for his first major decision of the season, bringing his career win total to 83.
Finesilver continued his impressive play well into the postseason, running through his competition in the ACC Tournament. In the semifinals, Finesilver took down Virginia Tech's Ryan Blees 4-0 to earn a second showdown against North Carolina's Austin O'Connor for the championship. After scoring early, the Blue Devil captain never let the match get ahead of him, riding out the clock for a 4-1 victory and an ACC individual title.
With an impressive resume behind him, Finesilver easily earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest individual seeding in Blue Devil history. From there, he cruised his way to the final weekend of the tournament where he would once again face off against O'Connor.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devil, in his sixth meeting with the Tar Heel, Finesilver came up short to end his Duke career.
After falling to O'Connor in the NCAA quarterfinal, Finesilver clawed his way into the consolation final with a 2-0 victory against Princeton's Matthew Kolodzik. From there, the redshirt senior Blue Devil found himself against an old nemesis as the final hurdle of his season, again taking on the North Carolina redshirt freshman.
O'Connor came out swinging with a 6-2 advantage heading into the third period, but Finesilver fired back to bring the ledger within two at 7-5. With time ticking down to the final seconds, the elder Finesilver took one final shot for a takedown to force overtime, but came up inches short for a fourth-place finish.
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Although Mitch Finesilver's final season at Duke didn't necessarily end on as bright of a note as his record would suggest, it doesn't detract from a senior performance that puts him firmly in the Blue Devil record books. Finesilver ended his 2019 career as an All-American, ACC champion, a fourth-place finisher in the NCAA tournament, etching him firmly in the lore of great Duke wrestlers.
READ MORE on Mitch Finesilver's dominant 2018-19 campaign: