Despite Win, West Virginia HC Tim Flynn Expects More Out of Wrestlers
MORGANTOWN, WVa.— West Virginia head coach Tim Flynn was very forward when addressing the Mountaineers’ showing on the mat against Air Force.
The veteran leader, despite seeing his team hand the Falcons their first road loss of the season and his own squad snap a four-match losing streak, was not satisfied with West Virginia’s performance, and said the Mountaineers could have done better.
“I didn’t think we really wrestled that well at all,” Flynn said following the 20-18 victory. “We still got the win, which is important. I always said in years past that if we don’t wrestle well, we’ll get throttled, so at least we won.”
West Virginia Ends Losing Streak with 20-18 Victory Over Air Force
The Mountaineers were without regular starters Killian Cardinale (ranked No. 6 at 125 pounds) and Davin Rhoads (133), who were out due to rest.
Air Force capitalized on West Virginia reserves Colton Drousias and Ryan Yriart with a major decision victory and a technical fall to lead 9-0 through two matches. Friday was Drousias’ first dual meet appearance since Dec. 19 against Fairmont State, while Yriart was making his dual meet debut.
The Mountaineers followed with six consecutive wins to lead 20-9. By Austin Cooley avoiding being pinned in the 197-pound match, West Virginia clinched the meet victory even though Air Force took the final two bouts.
“We knew we had to take those to win the match,” Flynn said of West Virginia’s string of wins in the middle weights. “We had some guys that hadn’t been in the lineup at 125 and 133. We knew (Air Force) was really tough in heavyweight, so we had to get some wins in the middle stretch.”
Two of the Mountaineers’ victories were decided in the final seconds, as Sam Hillegas at 149 pounds and Caleb Dowling at 157 were both trailing in the third period.
No. 21 ranked Hillegas used a reversal takedown with 12 seconds remaining to defeat Air Force’s Dylan Martinez. The win snapped a string of three straight dual meet losses for Hillegas.
“Sam is showing about a quarter of how good he is,” Flynn said. “He’s much better than he’s showing.”
Dowling gave similar feelings toward his own two recent performances, with Friday’s needing a takedown with two ticks left on the clock to get the victory.
The junior defeated Northern Iowa’s Derek Holschlag 3-1 in overtime on Feb. 5.
“I think I need to open up more,” Dowling said. “I haven’t wrestled in too many dual meets here (three). I don’t want to lose. I hate it. I’m very competitive. I don’t like having my matchups being this close. I’m very capable of scoring more points.
“I know sometimes I get a little nervous in the matches when I face some very talented wrestlers, but I have to be able to keep myself calm and remain confident in my abilities on the mat.”
With only two matches to go in the regular season, the Mountaineers are beginning to put the finishing touches on their respective skill sets before the Big 12 Tournament begins on March 4.
West Virginia hosts Clarion at 7 p.m. Friday in the Mountaineers’ final home match before traveling to Lock Haven at noon on Feb. 19. Clarion sits at 11-4 after its last meet, a loss to Rider, ended an eight-match winning streak.
“We have a pretty solid team,” said Mountaineers senior Scott Joll, who picked up his third consecutive dual meet victory against Air Force’s Gage Musser. “I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve gotten to see the team grow after not winning much my freshman year. Our guys, including myself, know the jobs we have to do to be successful.”
Flynn said he understands his wrestlers have the full desire to win, but improving their craft over the next three weeks will be just as important.
“The will to win is there, for sure,” Flynn said, “but they’ve got to be wrestling a lot better than they did (Friday), or they’re not going to be very happy at the Big 12 Tournament.”