Mountaineers Wrap Up Top-Tier Season, Look Ahead to Big 12 Tournament
LOCK HAVEN, Pa.— The 2022-23 season for the West Virginia wrestling program was one of the best the team has produced in over three decades.
The Mountaineers finished with a 10-5 overall record, marking the first time West Virginia reached 10 wins since 1988 and just the sixth time securing double-digit victories in program history, after closing the year with a 34-9 triumph over Lock Haven on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s nice. It’s very nice to get 10,” West Virginia head coach Tim Flynn said. “We want to win them all, but we’re more focused on improving ourselves. If we keep our eyes on the overall goal, everything else will fall into place.”
Mountaineers Close Regular Season with Decisive Win Over Lock Haven
West Virginia started the season by winning all three matchups in the Mountaineer Quad event before falling to No. 4 Missouri on the road. The Mountaineers followed by taking four straight dual meets to improve to 7-1. This included a 24-11 victory over No. 21 Pittsburgh, the Mountaineers’ first win over a ranked opponent in two years, as West Virginia reached its best record through eight matches since 1990.
After the win over Pittsburgh, Mountaineers 141-pound grappler Jordan Titus was named Big 12 Wrestler of the Week for upsetting No. 1 ranked Cole Matthews during the match, and West Virginia was put into the Top 25 for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
The team then hit a snag, dropping four consecutive matches, three being to ranked opponents in No. 12 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Iowa State and No. 14 Northern Iowa. The Mountaineers were able to finish their up-and-down campaign with three consecutive victories over the last nine days.
WVU’s Jordan Titus Named Big 12 Wrestler of the Week; Mountaineers Now Ranked No. 24
“We definitely have a strong bond as a team,” West Virginia junior Peyton Hall said. “We have a ton of unique and talented guys on the team. Everybody wants to win for each other. It’s been a lot of fun competing this year.”
Hall proved to be the top individual performer for West Virginia, finishing the regular season with a 22-3 overall record at 165 pounds, including a 13-2 mark in dual meets, and was tied with Sam Hillegas with a team-high eight pins. Hall was the only Mountaineer that tallied over 20 wins.
Titus and heavyweight Michael Wolfgram each recorded 18 victories, Hillegas compiled 17 and Anthony Carman posted 16.
Along with his teammates, Hall will now be preparing for the Big 12 Tournament beginning on March 4 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hall earned a second-place finish after falling to Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole 13-7 in last year’s 165-pound title bout.
“I’m trying to peak at the right time,” said Hall, who won his final four dual meet matches and 10 of his last 11. “I’ve been getting better the last couple weeks, and I’m feeling good. I’m making sure I’m doing all of the right things heading into the big time of the year. I can’t respect anybody too much, I just have to go out and wrestle my match.”
Seven total Mountaineers placed at last season’s tournament.
Killian Cardinale finished first at 125 pounds after beating 2021 champion Brody Teske of Northern Iowa, 8-3. Wolfgram (heavyweight) and Alex Hornfeck (157 pounds) both placed seventh. Carman (184), Jeff Boyd (149) and Dennis Robin (174) all took eighth.
For Carman, this year’s event will serve as a redemption opportunity after the redshirt junior was pinned by Wyoming’s Tate Samuelson in just 1:40 during the seventh-place match.
“It’s definitely a good feeling being able to go back on a high note,” Carman said. “It gives me motivation knowing that I’m still in this and Big 12 is coming up. I have two weeks to work as hard as I can for that, and the plan is to come back bigger.”
In what was possibly his final dual meet match, Carman secured a 9-5 comeback victory over Lock Haven’s Colin Fegley. Carman trailed 4-1 before tying the bout at 5-5 with 24 seconds remaining in the third period. He then rolled Fegley on his back to earn four points with nine seconds left, sealing the win.
The triumph ended a down stretch for Carman, who dropped six of his previous seven matches prior to Sunday.
Carman noted as he prepares for the Big 12 Tournament, his main focus will be staying dialed in for the entire duration of his matches.
“I’ve been working on trying to tune everyone out and keeping my full attention on my opponent,” Carman said. “If you look at some of my earlier matches this season, that was an issue for me. I’m going to attempt to keep improving on that and my skill set on the mat as we practice over the next couple of weeks.”
As a team, West Virginia is looking to better its finish in the 2022 event, where the Mountaineers tied North Dakota State for seventh place with 62 points.
Flynn said he remains confident in his team, adding the Mountaineers need to get back to full health before the tournament. Cardinale missed the last three matches, while Davin Rhoads sat out two of the last three.
“We’re getting better,” Flynn said. “Every year we’re getting a little better. I’ve said it all year, I like this team. I like the kids. They work hard, and it’s a pleasure to coach them.”