ANNAPOLIS, Md. â€” The Navy wrestling team won seven of the 10 bouts, including the last four to secure a 24-9 victory over arch rival Army in the annual Star Match held Saturday evening at Christl Arena in West Point. While the Midshipmen now own a 45-5-5 series advantage, the rout marked Navyâ€™s 11th-straight win over its service academy rival.
â€œWe didnâ€™t wrestle our best tonight, but we still won and Iâ€™m proud of our team,â€ said Navy head coach Bruce Burnett, who is 11-0 against the Black Knights since his arrival in Annapolis. â€œThere were a bunch of close matches and we hung on to win most of them. I know how important this rivalry is to both schools so for us to get another win against Army itâ€™s a great honor for the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, the Naval Academy and especially our team.â€
Navy built an early 11-0 lead after taking the first three matches of the evening, including the opening bout featuring sophomore Oscar Huntley (Stafford, Va.) who bumped up to 197 pounds in the last three weeks. Huntley, who placed second at the All-Academy Championship two weeks ago, faced Armyâ€™s Orion Ross in what was his first-collegiate dual at the heavier weight class. Huntley, who had previously wrestled at 174 pounds, had little trouble against Ross, who gave Navyâ€™s Scott Steele a good battle in last yearâ€™s dual. Huntley scored the major decision, 15-6, to put the Mids on top 4-0.
Making his Army-Navy Star Match debut was sophomore Dan Miller (Berlin, Md.) who carried on the Midsâ€™ success at heavyweight by way of an 11-4 victory over Army junior Daniel Mills. Meanwhile, junior Aaron Kalil (Salem, N.H.) pushed the Midsâ€™ lead to 11-0 by manhandling Black Knights junior Travis Coffey, who came into the match with a 17-10 overall record and a 6-2 dual mark this season. Kalil stymied Coffey, 8-0, to improve to 2-0 in Star Matches during his career.
Army tried mounting a comeback beginning at 133 pounds with second-year standout Jordan Thome dealing Navy senior Allen Stein (Portland, Maine) a 7-2 loss. Thomeâ€™s older brother Casey improved to a team-best 26-9 on the year at 141 pounds thanks to a 7-3 win over the Midsâ€™ Dustin Haislip (Inwood, W.Va.). Then it was sophomore Daniel Youngâ€™s turn, as he dealt Navy freshman Joe Locksmith (Kissimmee, Fla.) a 5-1 loss at 149 pounds. Not only was Locksmith wrestling up a weight class, it was his first appearance on the mat since the Reno Tournament of Champions back in mid-December.
Just over halfway through the dual and holding a narrow 11-9 advantage, Burnett turned to team captain Bryce Saddoris (Spring Creek, Nev.) to get the Mids back on track. Ranked ninth nationally, Saddoris would have a rematch of the championship bout at the All-Academy Championship just two weeks ago. He scored a 5-2 win over Jimmy Rafferty to win his third All-Academy Championship title and he claimed an 8-4 victory over Rafferty Saturday evening to secure his third win in the Star Match series.
â€œThe Army-Navy match is easily the dual we prepare the most for and look forward to the most as a team,â€ said Saddoris. â€œBecause the rivalry has such deep roots, Coach Burnett takes the time to make sure we are as prepared as we possibly can be going into the match. A win is sweet and Iâ€™m proud to graduate having won all four years.â€
While the win pushed Navyâ€™s match advantage to 14-9, it was also of historic proportions. The victory marked Saddorisâ€™ 141st win of his career, tying Matt Stolpinskiâ€™s school record for wins which was set in 2008.
â€œTo think about all of the great wrestlers that came before me and all of their accomplishments, I feel so honored to be in their company,â€ said Saddoris following the conclusion of the match. â€œIâ€™ve never been one to look at records, instead all I have wanted to do is concentrate on the things Iâ€ˆshould be doing and getting better.
â€œIt means a great deal to me that the person Iâ€™m tied with is Matt Stolpinski, who was my team captain my plebe year,â€ added Saddoris. â€œIâ€ˆremember Stoli saying, â€˜if anyone breaks that record, I want it to be you.â€™ Iâ€™ve put in my time and Iâ€™ve put a lot of work into it, but Iâ€ˆneed to keep my head on straight the next month and finish out the season by accomplishing the goals that Iâ€™ve set forth.â€
Saddoris, who improved to 31-5 with his win over Rafferty, is the only wrestler in school history to win at least 30 matches in each of his four years. He won 35 matches as a freshman, 43 as a sophomore and 32 as a junior.
Moving on to the 165-pound bout, sophomore Mason Bailey (Fairmont, W.Va.) also made the most of his first appearance in an Army-Navy Star Match, clipping Army freshman Alex Smith by a 5-3 count.
Navy went on to clinch the match in the second-to-last bout thanks to a 3-1 win by senior Matt DeMichiel (Whitesboro, N.Y.). The 174-pound DeMichiel wrestled in the Army-Navy dual his sophomore year and scored a victory for the Mids, but missed out on last yearâ€™s dual after suffering a season-ending leg injury just weeks before. He and the rest of Navyâ€™s senior class, however, will graduate in May having never lost a dual match to the Black Knights.
Although the match had already been decided, Navy junior Luke Rebertus (Gloucester, Va.) went out and wrestled his match with one thing on his mind – gaining bonus points. Rebertus had little trouble in cruising to a major decision over freshman Wil Brown, 11-3, at 184 pounds.
Navy will use the next two weeks to prepare for the 107th EIWA Championship which will be held at Bucknell on March 5 and 6.
Navy 24, Army 9
Feb. 19, 2011 â€¢ Christl Arena â€¢ West Point, N.Y.
197 â€“ Oscar Huntley (N) wins by major dec Orion Ross (A), 15-6 4-0
HWT â€“ Dan Miller (N) wins by dec Daniel Mills (A), 11-4 7-0
125 â€“ Aaron Kalil (N) wins by major dec Travis Coffey (A), 8-0 11-0
133 â€“ Jordan Thome (A) win by dec Allen Stein (N), 7-2 11-3
141 â€“ Casey Thome (A) win by dec Dustin Haislip (N), 7-3 11-6
149 â€“ Daniel Young (A) win by dec Joe Locksmith (N), 5-1 11-9
157 â€“ #6 Bryce Saddoris (N) wins by dec Jimmy Rafferty (A), 8-4 14-9
165 â€“ Mason Bailey (N) wins by dec Alex Smith (A), 5-3 17-9
174 â€“ Matt DeMichiel (N) wins by dec Collin Wittmeyer (A), 3-1 20-9
184 â€“ #11 Luke Rebertus (N)â€ˆwins by major dec Wil Brown (A), 11-3 24-9