ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Army West Point wrestling team picked up a thrilling 18-15 victory over service-academy rival Navy in the Star Match on Saturday evening at Alumni Hall.
The Black Knights close out the regular season at 3-6 overall and 2-3 in EIWA matches, while the Midshipmen dropped to 8-3 overall and 3-2 in conference duals. Additionally, Army improved to 9-6-2 in the 2017-18 Star Series presented by USAA.
Trey Chalifoux opened the match with a comeback 6-5 win at 125 pounds after trailing 3-1 at the start of the third period. The Mids won the next three matches, capped by a Corey Wilding pin at 149 pounds to send the home squad to a 12-3 advantage.
The Cadets had the heart of their lineup show up in a major way at that point, pulling three upsets to draw even in the dual. Sophomore Lucas Weiland, who picked up his first-career dual win last week at Bucknell, earned a 5-1 upset victory over No. 26 Zack Davis at 157 pounds to get the rally started for Army. Senior co-captain Andrew Mendel followed that with a 6-3 win over 19th-ranked Drew Daniels at 165 to set up Ben Harvey for the match of the year.
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Harvey entered the 174-pound bout with Army trailing by three points, 12-9. On top of that, he had never beaten Navy's Jadaen Bernstein in their first four meetings.
A scoreless first period preceded a scoring frenzy in the middle frame. The two wrestlers battled to a 5-5 tie heading into the third with Bernstein starting on bottom. The senior Navy grappler escaped to take a one-point advantage, forcing Harvey to go on the offensive.
The sophomore from New Palestine, Ind., did just that, picking up the match-deciding take down with 16 seconds remaining. He rode out the eighth-ranked 174-pounder in the nation to once again bring the Black Knights even in the dual.
The Black Knights were forced to win the final two matches after dropping a 4-0 decision at 184 pounds as the Mids recaptured the lead, 15-12. Rocco Caywood finessed his way to a 2-1 victory in the 197-pound bout by using the ride time point to force a winner-takes-all scenario at heavyweight.
Rookie Bobby Heald versus senior Austin Faunce. The two were scoreless after the first period, with Heald escaping after being on bottom in the second period and Faunce doing the same in the third. With the score at 1-1, the Star would be decided in overtime.
After neither was able to manage the match-winning take down in the first sudden victory period, the Mids heavyweight started on bottom for the first tiebreaker period. Faunce nearly escaped Heald's grasp multiple times, but was never able to get out from under his grasp. With the dual on the line, Heald fought his way out and escaped with 17 seconds and waited out the oncoming attacks to send the Black Knights home with a 2-1 win in his bout.
ARMY HIGHLIGHTS AND GAME NOTES
- Army defeated Navy in back-to-back years for the first time since winning three straight from 1960-62.
- It was Army's second-ever dual win at Navy and first since 1961.
- Head coach Kevin Ward tied LeRoy Alitz for the most victories over Navy in program history with three.
- Ward became the first coach in program history to win three of his first four Star Matches.
- In all three of Army's dual wins this season, the Black Knights have erased a deficit of nine or more.
- Chalifoux recorded his 10th-career dual victory tonight.
- The Nashville, Tenn., native improved to 3-0 all-time in matches versus Navy wrestlers.
- Weiland won his second career dual match and has now won eight of his last nine bouts.
- The Barnhart, Mo., native notched his second victory over a ranked opponent in his first-career match against Navy.
- Mendel documented his 15th-career dual victory with his first win over a ranked opponent this season at 165 pounds.
- The senior co-captain orchestrated his fifth-career win over Navy and finished his career 3-0 in Star Matches.
- Harvey upset No. 8 Bernstein for the first time in his career.
- Harvey set a new personal best with his sixth dual victory.
- It was his 15th win of the season and third this season over a ranked opponent.
- The win over Bernstein was Harvey's second over a top-10 foe this year.
- Caywood improved to 3-0 in his career against Navy wrestlers.
- Heald picked up his first-career win over a Navy wrestler to clinch the victory for the Black Knights.
HOW IT HAPPENED
125: Trey Chalifoux dec. over Aslan Kilic, 6-5 (Army leads, 3-0)
133: Cody Trybus dec. over Lane Peters, 6-2 (Tied, 3-3)
141: #17 Nicholas Gil dec. over Austin Harry, 7-3 (Navy leads, 6-3)
149: #24 Corey Wilding pinned Will Lucie at 4:33 (Navy leads, 12-3)
157: Lucas Weiland dec. over #26 Zack Davis, 5-1 (Navy leads, 12-6)
165: Andrew Mendel dec. over #19 Drew Daniels, 6-3 (Navy leads, 12-9)
174: #27 Ben Harvey dec. over #8 Jadaen Bernstein, 7-6 (Tied, 12-12)
184: #17 Michael Coleman dec. over #30 Noah Stewart, 4-0 (Navy leads, 15-12)
197: #30 Rocco Caywood dec. over Steban Cervantes, 2-1 (Tied, 15-15)
285: Bobby Heald dec. over Austin Faunce, TB-2, 2-1 (Army leads, 18-15)
- Head Coach Kevin Ward – "I'm so proud of all of our guys. Weiland, Mendel and Harvey were all underdogs on paper and just went out on the mat believing they should win. This team shows the power of believing in yourself and respecting your abilities against any odds."
- "I can't say enough about how proud I am of the team. They are fighters and they had to fight like crazy to win this one. They broke a barrier for this program and should be very proud of themselves."
- The Black Knights will compete at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships at Hofstra on March 3-4.