By Becky Brouse
For The Fayette Tribune
LEXINGTON, Va. —
The Golden Bears of WVU Tech finished in second place out of 11 teams at the Washington & Lee Invitational wrestling event on Saturday afternoon. Tech scored 125 team points and was edged out by two points by NAIA East Regional opponent St. Andrews Presbyterian.
Tech had a tournament-high six finalists and had three champions emerge from their brackets unbeaten.
Leading the way at 133 pounds, freshman Alfred Martinez won his second tournament championship of the year with a takedown in sudden victory to come out on top of a 6-4 score. Martinez was highly aggressive and pushed the pace throughout the match. He moves to 10-2 on the season.
Dirk Ponchak continued the strong start to his sophomore year by taking a 7-1 decision over Scranton’s Shawn Flesche at 165 pounds. Ponchak broke open a scoreless tie in the second period by scoring a reversal and accumulating substantial riding time. In the third period, Ponchak (19-1) scored a pair of takedowns to ice the win.
The third champion for Tech was freshman Tola Morakinyo. Morakinyo had three wins on the day and capped off his championship with a 7-3 victory over the host school’s Zac Richey. This is Morakinyo’s first collegiate tournament championship and it moves him to 16-2 on the year.
Finishing as runners-up for Tech were freshman Denis Robles Gomez, senior John Walters and freshman Aaron Wallace. At 125, Gomez made the finals on the strength of a pair of pins but fell in the finals 13-1. Walters, moving up to 157, won a pair of first-round matches, using his emerging leg attack skills to complement his already strong rides. Wallace, competing in his first collegiate tournament at 174 pounds, defeated the second and third seeds in dominant fashion on the way to the finals.
Also winning matches and placing for Tech were freshmen Terry Nance, Colton Rowe, Wyatt Norfolk and Jasi Coureur.
“I am very happy with our champions. None of them had an easy day, and each one had to overcome some adversity to reach the top step,” said Tech coach Sam Gardner. “Having six finalists is a statement that we are capable of winning up and down the lineup. Being two points from the top spot in the team race is somewhat frustrating, as I will now spend the rest of the weekend trying to figure out what we have to do to be certain we will be able to earn those needed team points in the future.
“We are a young team, but these athletes are working hard week in and week out to better themselves. I am proud of them and their efforts.”
The Golden Bears will next participate in the Apprentice School Invitational in Newport News, Va. Saturday, Jan. 18.
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In a back-and-forth battle by two teams from the NAIA East Region, the Golden Bears fell to the visiting Knights of St. Andrews Presbyterian College, 25-21, last week. The teams evenly split the 10 bouts wrestled, with the difference coming from additional bonus points scored by St. Andrews.
At 125 pounds, Chauncey Foster (SA) converted a Peterson roll into a fall for St. Andrews over freshman Denis Robles-Gomez. At 133, Golden Bear freshman Alfred Martinez scored with one second left on the clock to take a 6-5 decision. St. Andrews stormed back, scoring a pair of back-to-back falls at 141 and 149 and jumping out to a commanding 18-3 team score.
Tech senior captain John Walters began the rally with a 7-0 decision over Brandon Eldridge. With that win, Walters moved to 13-3 on the season. Co-captain Dirk Ponchak (16-1) converted his leg attack into a cradle and finished off Djemson Villard with a body press for a first period fall in the 165-pound bout. The Golden Bears’ comeback was dealt a difficult blow at 174 when Colton Rowe couldn’t make his two takedowns stand up and was hit with a technical violation at the end of the third period to lose 5-4.
At 184 the day’s highest-scoring match was a battle between nationally-ranked freshman Tola Morakinyo and St. Andrews’ Dejaunte Pabellon. Morakinyo jumped out to a 10-2 lead early in the first period on the strength of a pair of takedowns and two sets of backpoints. Pabellon battled back, and at the start of the third period the score drew to within 13-9. Morakinyo used a leg attack to drive Pabellon to his back and score the fall.
With the score 21-18 in favor of St. Andrews, freshman Terry Nance used a pair of takedowns and a pair of escapes to earn a 6-3 victory over Jared Key. Nance’s three team points tied the match at 21-21 going into the heavyweight match. Unfortunately for the Golden Bears the comeback victory was not to be, as nationally-ranked Denzel Vaughn earned a major decision over freshman Wyatt Norfolk.
“I told the guys that the match would come down to bonus points and it did. I did not expect three of our first four guys to get pinned. When you are starting eight freshmen, sometimes these things can get away from you. We did a good job battling back to tie it and taking a split in matches isn’t a bad thing,” said Gardner.
(Brouse is the WVU Tech sports information director.)