Wrestling without competitors in three weight classes due to injury and illness, the WVU Tech wrestling program paced the field with four champions and finished third place out of 13 teams at the Builder Invitational hosted by the Newport News Apprentice School.
The Golden Bears had a strong final round in the placement matches by going a perfect 8-0 in those bouts, scoring a number of bonus points along the way.
Tech was led by senior captain John Walters, who claimed his second Builders Invitational championship in as many years. Walters went 4-0 at 157 pounds on the day and capped it off with a 4-2 finals victory over his opponent from William & Mary. His performance through the day earned him the tournament’s “Champion of Champions” trophy, voted on by his fellow champions.
Sophomore Dirk Ponchak improved his season record to 22-1 and captured his third tournament championship of the season with a dominant performance at 165. Ponchak scored bonus points in all three of his matches, including a final-round major decision victory over Scranton University’s Shawn Flesche, 12-3. Flesche was the defending champion at this weight.
Freshman Tola Morakinyo continued a strong campaign, making his third tournament final and winning his second title. Now 19-2 on the year, Morakinyo followed a first-round pin and a semifinal major decision victory with a final-round 6-4 victory over a wrestler from Ferrum (Va.) College.
The Golden Bears’ fourth champion of the day was freshman Wyatt Norfolk, who captured the 235-pound weight class in dominant fashion. Norfolk was 3-0 on the day with three falls, earning him not only his first career college tournament victory, but also the trophy for the most falls in the least amount of time.
“I’m very proud of this team today. Third place trophy aside, I believe this may have been our best performance as a team so far this year. A tournament like this is a numbers game, and we had some guys get sick this week, which put us behind the eight ball because they couldn’t wrestle,” said Tech coach Sam Gardner. “The guys responded well, and our 8-0 final round of competition was really the kind of strong performance I was hoping to see. We had twice as many champions as any other team, which is what you want to see when you are evaluating your performance.
“I was proud of the effort of all our guys. We continue to develop technically, we display heart in matches that are tight, and we are wrestling a style that is exciting and aggressive. These are good, good things.”
(Brouse is the WVU Tech sports information director.)