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Duke wrestling's Josh Finesilver qualifies for NCAA Championships

Josh is one of an array of standout Duke wrestlers from the Finesilver family.
Josh is one of an array of standout Duke wrestlers from the Finesilver family.

The three guarantees in life: death, taxes and a Finesilver brother heading to the NCAA Championships for Duke wrestling.

Although the Blue Devils placed last at Sunday's ACC Championships as a team, redshirt junior Josh Finesilver finished in third individually at 149 pounds, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships later this month. This marks the third time he's qualified for the tournament.

"I look at what Josh has done—he trains hard, he lives the right lifestyle, he does the right things," head coach Glen Lanham said. "You're always excited for a guy like that. He prepares himself the right way."

Josh comes from a family of standout Duke wrestlers, with a Finesilver brother qualifying for the NCAA Championships every season since 2015 excluding last year when both Josh and his twin brother Matt redshirted. The duo qualified for the NCAA Championships their first two seasons in Durham in 2018 and 2019, and Matt likely would have qualified along with Josh once again this year had he not suffered a torn ACL in practice just before the season began.

Before them, older twin brothers Mitch and Zach were four-time and three-time NCAA qualifiers, respectively, between 2015 and 2019, with Mitch placing fourth at NCAAs in 2019

Lanham attributes the mindset of each wrestler, as well as their parents, as contributors to the family's success.

"It kind of started, I would say maybe five, six years ago, with guys that came into the program and wanted to make a difference, and wanted to sacrifice a lot of the normalcies that regular students have in order to be to be champions, and those guys that do that in our program succeed," Lanham said. "You look at Mitch, you look at Zach, you look at Matt—all of those guys are guys that do that, and are successful. 

"It starts with the parents. They let us coach their sons, and they know sometimes it's gonna be hard and sometimes we're gonna push them. And they're there as parents. They're not there as coaches or critics. They're there as parents, and they know that our system works. And sometimes in order to get them to where they need to be in matches, we need to challenge them, we need to get them uncomfortable."

Getting to the NCAA Championships wasn't the only goal this season for Josh, though.

Duke has had an All-American (top eight finishers in each weight class) for six consecutive full seasons. Although Josh currently ranks a bit outside that at No. 20, Lanham believes the fight Josh showed in ACCs—including in a defeat to North Carolina's Austin O'Connor, the No.1-ranked wrestler in the country in their weight class—makes All-American status very achievable for the Colorado native. And potentially even more.

"Right now his focus is to win it," Lanham said of Josh's focus at NCAAs. "It's not to put the pressure on him to win, but to know that he's capable of winning it. And that's the whole thing, when you get to nationals, right now, you'll be surprised how many big name guys that get there that want to quit, that the season's too long, your body's banged up. You gotta give them an excuse to quit. I think that one thing I know that Josh will do, he will not stop wrestling. And I feel like that is a good attribute that he's going to bring to the national tournament."

Outside of Josh, multiple other wrestlers were on the cusp of qualifying for NCAAs, but ultimately fell just one victory short of doing so.

One of those wrestlers was freshman Logan Agin at 125 pounds. Agin entered the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed and upset Pittsburgh redshirt freshman and No. 3 seed Colton Camacho in the first round before falling to N.C. State redshirt sophomore and No. 2 seed Jakob Camacho in the second round.

Agin is just one example of a flurry of young Blue Devil wrestlers who have the potential to make some noise down the road.

"I think it shows that he's right up there," Lanham said of Agin. "It shows that he's able to compete in a Division I level at that weight.... If we can get past the COVID and have regular seasons, there's a lot of growth that will take place with these young guys, because you need experience and you can't get experience if you don't have the matches."

The NCAA Championships are scheduled to take place March 18-20 in St. Louis, Mo.

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