WLSC wrestlers finish seventh at Mid West Classic

Melko, Surra take silver

Times Leader Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (January 4, 2009) - The West Liberty State College wrestling program was dealt a tough hand this weekend short a few bodies, but managed to battle through the adversity to place seventh out of 22 at the Mid West Classic Sunday afternoon, January 4 2009.

"I thought we did well. Mid West Classic is one of the big small college tournaments in the country for D-II and NAIA teams," Hilltoppers' mat mentor Brian Davis explained. "There were nine schools here that are ranked in the top 20 in Division II. As a wrestler at West Lib, we used to use this tournament to judge where we thought we would be at the end of the season at nationals."

The Hilltoppers were led by returning two-time All-American Doug Surra and returning national qualifier Kayne Melko, a St. John Central product. The one-two punch both managed to make their way into the finals of the two-day grind, but neither was able to come out as champions.

"We wrestled tough out here, but weren't able to capitalize in the end when we needed to," Davis said. "We get rid of some small mistakes we take home some individual champions."

Surra toed the line with Adams State's Raymond Dunnings, the No. 1 ranked Division II 141 pounder in the country, in the finals. However, the Kersey, Pa. native didn't let the ranking bother him as he stunned Dunnings in the opening panel on his feet.

"He was wrestling a real aggressive match and he didn't know what hit him," Davis said as Surra was leading Dunnings 11-4. "In the third we could have backed off and took the win, but we wanted to push the match. At least now we know what that kid has and that could pay dividends down the road for us."

Melko, who was forced to injury default out of the Ohio Northern Tournament in December, faced Wisconsin Parkside's Craig Becker in the championship at 149 pounds.

"I was concerned how he would come back from it and wrestle," Davis admitted as Melko knocked off the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds before being quieted 6-1 in the finals. "This is a good indication on how we are going to do at the end of the year. This puts Kayne in good position to place at nationals and be an all-American."

Coming up unexpected in the hardware rounds was true freshman heavyweight Mike Carpenter. A West Virginia small school state champion during his prep days at Liberty Raleigh, Carpenter cranked up his stock this weekend beating Findlay's Matt Clum by injury default and North Carolina-Pembroke's Erik Stancil, who was seeded No. 2 and No. 5, to finish fourth overall.

"He has been improving in leaps and bounds. Kids who hammered him at the beginning at the year he is keeping up with now," Davis said excitedly. "If we can get the right people around he will be in great shape this year."

Claiming seventh place for the Toppers were Mitch Smith (157) and Mitch Knapp (184).

Smith, a Division I transfer, dropped a pair of one point matches to Mesa State's Chase Walker and Ohio Northern's Luke Miller, 6-5 and 8-7, respectively. "He is adjusting. They say when you go from a higher level to a lower level you have to adjust. There is a lot more talent in the smaller levels than people know," Davis said about the Huntington, W.Va.'s transition to being a Topper. "He is a very mature kid and is able to go to school on things like these losses. Mitch is still right there in the mix. It is better to lose these ones now instead of down the road."

Knapp, a returning national qualifier, dropped a weight class for this tournament and it showed to play into his wrestling early on.

"The first time down is always the killer," Davis said about the McConnelsville, Ohio native. "Once he gets his weight under control for 184 his body will adjust. We will evaluate this weekend and see if this is something we are going to continue for Mitch."

Knapp, a No. 4 seed, was knocked off in the quarterfinals by Mitch Lunnings 5-3 and forced to wrestle back through the consolations. Winning three consecutive matches, Findlay's Hiram Smith laid the law down in a 12-4 wakeup call before Knapp went on to see Lunnings again in his fifth place match. However, this time the result was different as Knapp won in a tight 2-0 decision.

Placing eighth was featherweight Nick Wycoff of Dubious, Pa. The true freshman battled through day one, but fell to a reoccurring injury forcing Wycoff to default out of the tournament.

"It's a shame to see that happen, but we are going to take care of it and get him back into the room as soon as he is cleared," Davis said.

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