MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— The West Virginia wrestling team is officially off the schneid.
The Mountaineers climbed out of an early hole behind a strong performance from their middleweights to defeat Air Force 20-18 on Friday night inside the WVU Coliseum, ending a four-match losing streak.
West Virginia’s victory marks its first-ever home win over Air Force, as the Mountaineers improved to 3-0 all-time against the Falcons. Friday was also Air Force’s first defeat on the road this season.
With the Big 12 portion of the schedule now in the books, West Virginia (8-5) closes conference competition with a 2-5 record. Two wins are the second-most for the Mountaineers under fifth-year coach Tim Flynn. The Mountaineers have a pair of regular season dual meets remaining, the next being the home finale against Clarion next Friday night.
The Mountaineers had to put in an extra effort to finish the Big 12 slate on a high note.
Regular starters Killian Cardinale (ranked No. 6 at 125 pounds) and Davin Rhoads (133) were out of the lineup due to rest. The two were replaced by Colton Drousias and Ryan Yriart, respectively, but both were defeated, putting West Virginia down 9-0 early.
Drousias, who was seeing his first dual meet action since a loss against Fairmont State on Dec. 19, fell to Tucker Owens by a 9-1 decision. Air Force’s Cody Phippen then defeated Yriart by technical fall 18-0 in 2:42, in what was Yriart’s dual meet debut.
Desperately needing a win to get back into the match, the Mountaineers got what they needed. In fact, West Virginia claimed the next six bouts in a row to take the lead.
Jordan Titus put the Mountaineers on the board with a 6-3 victory over Garrett Kuchan at 141 pounds. Sam Hillegas stole a late victory at 149 pounds, using a reversal takedown with 12 seconds remaining to defeat Dylan Martinez 5-4.
At 157, West Virginia’s Caleb Dowling grabbed his third dual meet win in as many tries by edging Jack Ganos 4-3. Like Hillegas, Dowling’s victory came right near the conclusion of the third period, as Dowling, who was trailing by one point, recorded a takedown with only two ticks remaining on the clock.
Air Force head coach Sam Barber challenged the points, but the call was held up following video review.
This is Dowling’s second straight win that came down to the end, as the junior defeated Northern Iowa’s Derek Holschlag 3-1 in sudden victory during West Virginia’s last meet on Sunday.
No. 11 ranked Peyton Hall followed with a 20-7 major decision win over Seamus Casey at 165 pounds, putting the Mountaineers ahead in the match 13-9.
Scott Joll then secured his third straight dual meet victory for West Virginia, also grabbing a major decision victory over Gage Musser at 174. Anthony Carman capped off the run by beating Noah Blake 2-0 at 184.
Leading 20-9 with two matches to go, West Virginia’s Austin Cooley just needed to avoid being pinned in the 197-pound match to secure the meet win for the Mountaineers. Cooley was defeated 4-0 by Calvin Sund.
West Virginia heavyweight Michael Wolfgram had the toughest matchup for the Mountaineers, as Wolfgram was pinned by No. 6 ranked Wyatt Hendrickson in 37 seconds to end the match.
Hendrickson, who improved to 21-1 on the season and recorded his 12th pinfall victory, is the defending Big 12 individual champion. The junior started the 2021-22 campaign with 24 straight wins before losing two of three bouts at the NCAA Tournament.
Wolfgram has now faced an opponent ranked at No. 18 and above in four of his last five matches.
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