Wrestling falls to Navy in home opener
Eagles lose final six individual bouts
After jumping out to a 9-3 lead, the AU wrestling team dropped six consecutive bouts to fall in their home opener 25-9 to the Navy Mids Friday night in Bender Arena.
Nationally ranked wrestlers Jeric Kasunic, Brett Dempsey and Josh Terao all earned individual victories for AU, but the Eagles (4-4, 1-2 EIWA) were unable to string together enough to finish off the Mids (6-1,3-1 EIWA).
The bout began with the 197-pound match, where No. 9 Kasunic gained momentum for the Eagles immediately, scoring a 2-point takedown against Steban Cervantes in the first minute of the first period. Kasunic maintained the upper hand for the final six minutes of the match, accruing over four minutes of riding time en route to his 15th consecutive individual bout victory, 5-1, to give AU a 3-0 lead.
Head coach Teague Moore identified the 197-pound match as one of several key early matches where the Eagles were unable to earn extra points for a fall or major victory.
“I think at 197, we could have got a couple more points to give us a bonus win,” Moore said. “We just need a little bit more effort on getting the guy [Cervantes] over [on his back].”
Redshirt senior heavyweight Brett Dempsey, ranked 23rd in the nation, followed up with a narrow victory over the Mids’ Austin Faunce. Dempsey began the third period in the down position trailing 2-1 before quickly earning a one-point escape. The match ended with the score level 2-2, but Dempsey was awarded a third point and the victory based on his superior riding time to give AU an early 6-0 advantage.
The match began to turn against the Eagles in the 125-pound bout, where AU freshman Gage Curry took on Navy’s Aslan Kilic. Curry was aggressive early and entered the third period with a 3-1 advantage, just two minutes from giving AU a commanding 9-0 advantage in the team score. However, Kilic rallied and scored two late takedowns, including one as the final horn sounded to escape with a 6-4 victory for the Mids.
“At 125, that’s a pivotal match because that’s a match we should definitely win. We were winning for the majority of it,” Moore said. “Late in the third period, we give up two takedowns that there’s no need for us to give up. So once that swing match happens [we lose momentum].”
While No. 8 Terao was victorious over Cody Trybus in the 133-pound match, Moore again said he was looking for his highest-ranked wrestler to deliver more points for the team with either a major victory, a fall or a technical fall. Terao’s 4-1 victory was the Eagles’ final individual victory of the night. Eagles freshman 141-pounder Kizhan Clarke battled nationally ranked Nicholas Gil tightly for nearly six minutes, but a late takedown saw Gil take the match 3-2.
“Kizhan as a freshman is wrestling an upperclassmen with a national ranking, that’s a match we’ve got to win,” Moore said. “We’re one takedown away from it. In those matches, on paper I think we could have come away with a little bit more.”
After Clarke’s loss, redshirt junior Michael Sprague (149), freshman Eric Hong (157), freshman Anthony Wokasch (165), redshirt junior Michael Eckhart (174) and redshirt freshman Prince Hyeamang (184) lost in consecutive bouts to give the Mids the dual meet victory.
“We’ve got to find in ourselves where our fight’s at. Tonight we didn’t win the tight ones because we didn’t have the same fight that Navy had,” Moore said. “They were definitely more gritty than we were and it showed late in bouts. Third periods did not look equal.”
The Eagles face a quick turnaround when they travel to Norfolk, Virginia for a dual meet against EIWA conference opponent Old Dominion Sunday at 1:00 p.m.