WVU Wrestlers Remain Confident Before Final Regular Season Dual Meet
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— With the end of the regular season less than 24 hours away, West Virginia has one last chance to fine-tune its skill set against an actual opponent before the Big 12 Tournament.
The Mountaineers will travel to take on Lock Haven in their final dual meet at noon Sunday inside the Thomas Fieldhouse.
West Virginia (9-5, 2-5 Big 12) has built some momentum going in by taking its last two matches, including a thrilling 24-18 victory over Clarion on Friday night that resulted from Mountaineers heavyweight Michael Wolfgram pinning Austin Chapman in the final bout.
This marked the first time in the 2022-23 season the entire result of a dual meet came down to Wolfgram’s match, but the junior said he felt little pressure.
Heavyweight Michael Wolfgram’s Pin Lifts West Virginia Over Clarion in Home Finale
“That kind of plays a factor into it,” Wolfgram said of the emotion going into his match. “I want to win, not just for myself, but for my team. I’ve had these times before where it came down to me; I’ve been a heavyweight since I was in ninth grade. I’m honestly kind of used to it at this point.”
This type of confident mindset will be key for the Mountaineers over the next two weeks until the Big 12 Tournament begins on Saturday, March 4.
Multiple West Virginia wrestlers are also riding solid performances over the past handful of meets to add to the mix.
No. 12 ranked Peyton Hall won three consecutive bouts and nine of his last 10 overall at 165 pounds. Scott Joll has been victorious in four straight matches at 174. Jordan Titus and Sam Hillegas have both claimed back-to-back wins.
“Right now, there’s a lot of good emotions,” said West Virginia senior Alex Hornfeck, who scored a 10-2 major decision win over Clarion’s Trevor Elfvin Friday night. “That’s kind of a must for us going forward. We can’t try to think too much into our matches. Just go with the flow. Every match is important, no matter when it is. We just have to keep our heads up and try to maintain this momentum.”
Seeing top competition at this point in the season is crucial for the Mountaineers’ preparation heading into the tournament. Wolfgram, especially, can speak for this.
Prior to Friday, Wolfgram faced four opponents ranked No. 18 or higher out of his previous five matchups. Not only were they just high-caliber talent, the four grapplers were all Big 12 wrestlers, so there is a good chance Wolfgram will be seeing one or more of them again at the BOK Center.
“It’s good data analysis for me,” Wolfgram said. “I get to see where I’m at, what I need to work on, what I can keep. I definitely have to try and use what worked well on those guys again. It’s honestly just maintain and fine-tune at this point.”
Mountaineers head coach Tim Flynn voiced similar thoughts concerning fine-tuning, adding the Mountaineers need to be smarter on the mat in terms of scoring points for the team.
Flynn noted Titus, Hillegas and Joll missed out on major decision victories by certain actions each wrestler made during their respective matches.
Titus and Joll both held identical seven-point leads at 13-6 in the third period, but ended up taking the bouts by six and four points, respectively. Hillegas led 8-3 in the third and was in position for a near-fall, but suffered a reversal before eventually winning, 10-8.
To earn a major decision, a wrestler must defeat his opponent by a score between 8 and 14 points. If the trio had followed suit, West Virginia would have earned three additional team points, instead giving the Mountaineers an advantage going into Wolfgram’s match.
“It’s always good to get the win, just not smart wrestling today,” Flynn said post-match. “We did things we’re not supposed to do. It’s things that if you wrestled your whole life, you wouldn’t do. We just need to clean that up.”
Flynn, though, was still proud of his group, speaking positively on the Mountaineers’ current status.
West Virginia has won nine matches for the first time since 2015. A victory Sunday would give the Mountaineers their first 10-win season since 1988 and would just be the sixth time in program history that West Virginia reached double-digit victories.
“Even when the kids don’t wrestle at their best, and I’ve said this before, I like this team,” Flynn said. “It’s very easy to work with them. They’re an extremely motivated group and I feel that we can continue to be strong moving forward.”