WVU Tech Third at the USCAA National Invitational

February 9, 2014

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - On a snowy day in State College, PA the WVU Tech Golden Bears finished in third place in their first attempt at winning the USCAA National Wrestling Invitational. Led by a quartet of champions, which was second in number only to team champion Newport News Apprentice School's five titlists, the Tech wrestlers were able to amass 122 team points.

At 157 lbs. Senior Captain John Walters ("J-Dub") continues to add to his best season yet as a Golden Bear, making his third final, and winning his second tournament championship of the season. Walters opened the day with a 14-2 major decision victory in the quarterfinals and followed that up with a 6-1 semi-final victory. In the finals, J-Dub was pushed to over time, and after a scoreless sudden victory period, went to the ride out. He chose bottom first and scored a quick escape and takedown, and then rode his opponent from the Apprentice School out for the victory in the second 30-second tie breaker period for the victory.

Sophomore Dirk Ponchak continued his historic season with his fourth tournament championship of the year. Ponchak cruised into the finals on the strength of a pair of pins in the first two rounds. In the championship match, Dirk used a pair of takedowns, a reversal, and a riding time point to defeat his opponent from Alfred State by a 7-4 margin. Ponchak's record improves to a team best 28-2 on the year.

Freshmen Tola Morakinyo, nationally ranked in the NAIA, made his fifth tournament final of the year and earned in third first-place trophy. In the semi-finals the Golden Bear 184 pounder countered his opponent from Penn State Dubois' leg attack and launched him with a lateral drop directly to his back to earn the fall in the closing seconds of the first period. In the final against Penn State Mont Alto, after a cautious first period, Morakinyo ran up a 7-3 victory including a thundering double leg to put an exclamation point on the match.

Fellow freshman Wyatt Norfolk continued his string of solid second semester performances at 235 lbs. Norfolk used a combination of solid leg attacks coupled with an aggressive top game to pin his way to the top of the podium. In the finals, Norfolk converted a high crotch leg attack on his opponent from Penn State Dubois for a takedown, and then moved to his patented cross-wrist bundled arm pinning combination to earn the fall in less than two minutes. This is Norfolk's second tournament victory of the year.

Colton Rowe continued with his strong freshman campaign, earning victories 19, 20, and 21 of the year while placing third at 174 lbs. Rowe used is aggressive upper body attacks in conjunction with some explosive double leg attacks to score the majority of his points. In the consolation semi-finals he uncorked one of his best moves of the year, lacing his leg between his opponent and then throwing him directly to his back, in a move reminiscent of former Soviet Olympic Champion Sergei Belaglazov.

The Golden Bears had a number of place winners in other weights as well. Freshmen Denis Robles-Gomez finished in fifth at 125 lbs., Jasi Coureur was sixth, Chris Gonzales finished in fourth place at 141, and Devon Steele finished in fifth place at the same weight, pinning his opponent in his final bout.

Said head coach Samuel Gardner about the team's performance: "Overall I think we did what we were expected to do. Ignoring the team score and team race for a moment, I knew we were going to have a number of individuals who had the ability to perform well. For the most part those guys did that, because they've been doing that for most of the year. There were a few weights I was surprised we didn't get more points out of, and we were missing Terry Nance because of his injury, and he'd have been worth a good amount of team points too. As a team a number of our guys need to learn to compete as consistently as our guys who are winning tournaments and matches week after week. Some of them need to be disappointed by their performances, and have to redouble their efforts as they prepare for future matches and future seasons. Every week is an opportunity to learn - to learn how to train, to prepare, to compete, and to reflect. Guys like Dirk, J-dub, and Tola bring it day after day and week after week. They are the examples the rest of the team should aspire to. I'm proud of these guys, proud of how they competed today, and proud of how they have competed all season. We've established a solid foundation for the future. Now we just need to build in the coming weeks!"

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