Rollercoasters can be fun, with the sudden drops and the excitement rushing through your veins. But, at the end of the day, you end up at the same place you started.
The Blue Devils did that Sunday as they dueled against Franklin and Marshall and Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. Duke started the day on a high note, winning against Franklin and Marshall 19-18, but later fell to VMI 28-9. The ending resembled Duke’s performance one week prior in the Keystone Classic, where they placed ninth out of 11 teams.
In their dual against Franklin and Marshall, the Blue Devils were in a tough situation. With both junior Logan Agin and freshman Ethan Grimminger injured, Duke forfeited in the 125-pound division. It was not looking up for Duke, but it still triumphed in the dual.
“We got a tough situation. We lost probably 90% of the time as the situation got tougher,” head coach Glen Lanham said. “I don’t think Franklin and Marshall did really well. I think it was a win, and we can learn from it.”
One match in particular was a nail-biter. As Duke freshman Gaetano Console went against RJ Moore, the decision was on the verge of going either way. Luckily for the Blue Devils, the Barrington Hills, Ill., native was able to pin his opponent in less than a minute and a half.
“Gaetano is a guy that had an injury and we were pushing him back. He missed a couple of duals, and it is funny how adamant he was about getting back and doing everything possible to get himself in a situation to be back,” Lanham said. “I like his attitude, and I like the fact that he is a gamer.”
The tide changed for the Blue Devils in their second dual of the day against VMI.
“Virginia Military Institute came out, [and they] were not anymore technical than us—but really a little tough to get at,” Lanham said.
Few of the duals were close as VMI hammered down on Duke for a 19-point win. Add in the fact that only three Blue Devils won their matches—Jarred Papscy (141 pounds), Patrick Rowland (149 pounds) and Jonah Niesenbaum (285 pounds)— and it was a disheartening end to a bright beginning for the Blue Devils.
Although the day was a rollercoaster for many Blue Devils, one in particular had a smooth-sailing weekend. Niesenbaum won both of his duals, continuing his prowess this season. The Allentown, Pa., native started the day strong against Franklin and Marshall, winning 13-2. After a strong start, the senior finished exceptionally well with a 3-2 decision against Josh Evans of VMI. Niesenbaum’s second win of the day was his 10th straight.
“Jonah will have another year of grad school because of COVID … But right now I think we're transitioning, pretty decent for that leadership,” Lanham said. “[We are] just trying to get our freshmen to step up more, because sooner or later guys leave and you got to fill that void.”
Duke will be on the mat again Dec. 21 as it faces Presbyterian and George Mason in Clinton, S.C.
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