The Builders traveled to Lynchburg Saturday to compete in the NCWA National Duals at Liberty University. A disappointing 6th place finish for the 5th seeded Builders was offset by several outstanding individual performances at the event.
After two victories over Temple (39-9) and Penn State Club (34-12), Apprentice dropped a close 29-23 dual to Grand Valley State to finish 2nd in the pool. The 2nd place finish in the pool set the Builders up with a rematch of the semi-finals from last season against defending champions Emmanuel College. Emmanuel would eventually advance to the championship finals after defeating Apprentice 26-21 in the quarter-final and then Springfield Tech in the semi-final. Host Liberty College won the championship with a 30-15 victory over Emmanuel.
After the defeat to Emmanuel, the Builders bounced back with a 39-19 win over resurgent rival University of Maryland Baltimore County to advance to the 5th place dual against #1 seed University of Central Florida who was upset in pool competition by Springfield Tech.
Apprentice fell in a heartbreaking loss to UCF in the final dual which was decided on criteria after a 27-27 tie. Several builders who were outclassed on paper stepped up with dramatic upset wins, as well as more keeping their bouts to close decisions without giving up bonus points, but a pair of come-from-behind pins from UCF offset those performances.
Two Builders defeated #1 ranked wrestlers in the final dual of the night. #4 ranked Sophomore Colton Messick extended his hot streak with a heart-thumping win over #1 ranked Jacob Toledo at 125 lbs. Messick's conditioning and persistence allowed him to come from behind with a takedown with two seconds remaining to put the bout into overtime. After no score in overtime he found himself trailing by one point in the final ride-out, but a reversal with 13 seconds remaining sealed the victory. Colton was 3-0 at the event and has not lost in nearly two months.
Fellow Sophomore Shalek Colon's win was quite different. The 14th ranked wrestler at 141 lbs was never behind on the scoreboard before pinning defending National Champion at 133 lbs, and #1 ranked Justus Griffith in the first period. A patient Colon found two picture-perfect duck-unders before a well-timed double-leg put Griffith on his back and gave Shalek the biggest win of his career.
Freshman Ross Graham was 4-0 at the event with two wins by tech fall, a pin and a major decision. On his way to an undefeated weekend, un-ranked Graham downed 19th ranked Ernest Tessein of Temple 16-0, 11th ranked Richard Walker of Emmanuel 17-4, and 13th ranked Randolph Prud'homme of UCF by pin.
Junior Chad Simmons had a great weekend despite having a loss. Currently ranked 5th in the country at 165 lbs, Chad was 4-1 on the weekend, his only loss a rematch from the National Championships last season to 2nd ranked J.A. Jones of Emmanuel. On Friday Chad pinned 10th ranked Jacob Sobek of Grand Valley.
Heavyweight Senior Shakeem Lassiter was 3-2, his only losses coming from the #1 and #7 ranked wrestlers in the country from UCF and Grand Valley. Shak pinned 13th ranked Scott Betts of Temple after controlling the entire match.
With the 6th place finish, Apprentice will now carry 11 team points to the national championships in March.
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