AU wrestling notches fourth win of the season against ODU, 25-14
Michael Sprague and Jeric Kasunic earn falls to help AU plow past ODU
Sunday’s dual against Old Dominion University was the match AU needed to win but wasn’t supposed to win.
On paper, the Monarchs held a slight advantage, competing with four nationally ranked wrestlers, while AU brought three to the contest. ODU also arrived at Bender Arena with three more wins than AU, and had the momentum of coming off win against Ohio University on Friday. But in sport, as in life, nothing is ever simple.
The Eagles battled from the first match to the last, overpowering ODU 25-14 for notch their fourth win of the season.
“Old Dominion is another solid team like we’ve seen with the last five teams that we've wrestled,” Teague Moore said last weekend after AU’s loss to Binghamton “We have to bring a fight, and we have to be willing to put ourselves in our positions if we are going to win those matches.”
And that’s exactly what the Eagles did.
Senior captain Esteban Gomez-Rivera fought through lingering injury and illness in his match against ODU freshman Alex Madrigal to pull out a hard-earned 4-3 win. The 133-pound AU wrestler attacked from the first second, grabbing Madrigal’s leg and notching the first two takedown points.
Gomez-Rivera wrestled in control but allowed his opponent two early escapes, bringing the score to 4-2. “Your action, you set the pace,” yelled AU assistant coach Clint Musser, but Esteban found himself fading in the final minutes. “Two minute sprint,” Moore urged in the third period in an effort to inspire his athlete.
Madrigal went for the attack, scrambling to put Esteban on his back and scored a takedown to take the lead in the third period; yet after Moore challenged the call, Esteban regained the lead and rode out his win.
His momentum excited his team, particularly 141-pound sophomore Jack Mutchnick, who followed his captain’s performance with a ten-minute overtime victory. Mutchnik battled a defensive match, scoring three of his points through escapes and earning the last and winning point because of his short riding time advantage after the sixth overtime period.
AU’s third consecutive victory came from sophomore Michael Sprague, a 149-pound wrestler who challenged No. 21 Michael Hayes in a tied dual before escaping and flipping his opponent onto his back. Sprague pumped his arms in the air and pounded the mat in excitement, expressing the importance of his victory over a ranked opponent.
“Michael Sprague finding the fall that he did in a really tight bout, it didn’t look so sure like we were going to come away with the victory and then before you know it, we’re getting the fall,” Moore said. “I’m really happy with that, and I think that kind of really gave the rest of the team the energy we needed to keep matches close moving forward that we lost, and then in those last three find the victories that we needed.”
Junior Jeric Kasunic also notched a fall against his opponent in the 197-pound contest. Yet the fall will still bring confidence to Kasunic, Moore said, and help him stay motivated through the final few weeks of the season.
“With Jeric, it's about keeping him focused and keeping him working on the things he needs to work on,” Moore said. “Today’s opponent was bumping up two weight classes, so we knew that guy was going to just try and keep it close, which he did, but Jeric didn’t let that phase him. He just kept working until he finally found his position.”
Gomez-Rivera, Mutchnik, Sprague, Kausnic and 125-pound wrestler Josh Terao, who also earned a win against ODU, accomplished Moore’s team goals of “finding positions” and “bringing a fight.” The Eagles pulled out wins, both those expected to prevail and those who performed an upset, and they notched enough points to put their team ahead at the end of the afternoon.
The remainder of the season, Moore said, will be about refining those skills necessary to compete against the final two teams on the schedule and carry the athletes into the NCAA tournament. The Eagles face George Mason next Friday for Senior Day and then travel up to Ohio for one final dual meet with Ohio University. In a season full of grueling practices and hours in the weight room, the end is near.
“As we start to turn focus towards the postseason, really you just want guys as healthy as they can be, as strong as they can be, get their spirits up in the right areas, and usually you’re wrestling will follow through with that,” Moore said. “So we’re not grinding through practices anymore, we’re not putting excessive hours in the weight room. We’re really just trying to make sure that we are as strong as we can be and as healthy as we can be. “