I think it’s safe to say that this is the best week of the season for all three academies when it comes to wrestling.
Army won two out of three at the West Point Duals, the Midshipmen won in thrilling comeback fashion to open EIWA competition, and Air Force finally found the win column in dual competition at the Borah Duals in Gunnison.
Air Force (2-2)
Falcon fans rejoice! Air Force competed in the Borah Duals on Jan. 11 and notched dominant wins over Western Colorado and CSU Pueblo. How dominant were they? The combined score of the two matches was 87-9. Three wrestlers went 2-0 on the day: Randy Meneweather with two pins in less than three total minutes on the mat, Jared Van Vleet with a tech fall and a pin, and Trey Brisker with a hard-earned decision and a major decision.
The win over Western Colorado was dominant from start to finish with six of seven wrestlers picking up bonus points and three weight classes ending in forfeits. Bradley Bitting also made his dual debut in winning fashion with a 20-5 tech fall at 141 lbs.
No. 19 Sidney Flores won his only competition of the day, notching a tech fall over Pueblo’s Parker McBride to open the second match. Jake Thompson added to Meneweather’s pin in the second match with one of his own in just 1:17.
Air Force is finally back to .500 on the season and No. 19 Sidney Flores at 125 lbs. remains the only ranked Falcons wrestler. Up next, the Falcons open Big 12 competition against Northern Iowa at home on Jan. 19.
Army (6-2, 1-0 EIWA)
Per DJ Khaled, All Army does is win, win, win no matter what, and they continued to prove it at the West Point Duals. The Black Knights opened the day with a 19-12 loss to No. 17 North Carolina but bounced back to open EIWA play with a win over American University. Army won eight of 10 matches to blow out American with a score of 33-7. They then topped Wyoming in the most exciting match of the day, 19-13.
Noah Stewart, Ben Sullivan, and Trey Chalifoux all went undefeated on the day with Chalifoux’s efforts earning him an AWPAA Athlete of the Week award. He picked up three gritty decision wins, and Sullivan and Stewart each added two decisions of their own. Army’s ranked wrestlers had mixed days with Hartman, McCormick, and Harvey each falling to UNC, but winning their other matches.
The Black Knights have four wrestlers ranked by Intermat: No. 15 Markus Hartman at 156; No. 20 Cael McCormick at 165; No. 14 Ben Harvey 174; and No. 14 Noah Stewart at 184. Army will continue EIWA competition on Jan. 17 against Penn at home.
Navy (4-3, 1-0 EIWA)
Navy took on EIWA foe Bucknell in Annapolis on Jan. 10, and it proved to be a thrill-a-minute. The Midshipmen jumped out to a 9-3 lead behind a decision from Logan Treaster and a pin by Cody Trybus. A dual lead is rarely safe however, as Bucknell won four of the next five weight classes to take an 18-12 lead into the last two matches of the night.
Two freshmen proved to be the saviors of Navy’s night: Jacob Koser and John Birchmeier. Koser fell into a 4-1 hole against two-time EIWA place-winner Drew Phipps before picking up nine straight points en route to a 10-4 win that cut Bucknell’s advantage to just three.
It came down to Birchmeier and the heavyweight class to decide the night. A decision would have put the fate of the dual into the referee’s hands to consult the rule-book, but the freshman from Virginia had no such result in mind. Entering the third period with a narrow 8-7 advantage, Birchmeier recorded two near falls to finish with a score of 17-7, good for a major decision and a Navy win.
Three Midshipmen are currently in the InterMat top 20: No. 20 Logan Treaster at 125; No. 8 Tanner Skidgel at 165; and No. 19 Spencer Carey at 174. Navy will continue EIWA competition at Lehigh on Jan. 18.
It almost feels unfair to list it under any single academy, but the All Academy Championships are just two weeks away and Army and Navy will head to Air Force on Jan. 25.