The Appalachian State Mountaineers are officially one of 16 teams to have been selected to compete at the NWCA National Duals Championship Series. The Mountaineers (11-4, 6-1 SoCon) will face off against the Indiana Hoosiers (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) on Sunday.
“I am honored that our program has been selected for the 16-team field for the National Duals and I am looking forward to the challenge for our team!” head coach JohnMark Bentley said in a press release.
The Mountaineers have been on a roll this season, though having lost to Gardner-Webb, they pinned Chattanooga to the mats and were able to secure a three-way conference championship title with the two. Chattanooga was the 5-time defending SoCon Champions up until this year.
With the regular season now behind them, the Duals Series is the last test before the Southern Conference Tournament in March. Denzel Dejournette, named SoCon Wrestler of the Week multiple times and an influential leader on the team, said both the personal and team goals were to simply win, “Just keep the foot on the gas pedal and don’t let up.”
And that’s exactly what he’s been doing this season. Dejournette has lost a grand total of two matches this season. The first loss took place back in December against NC State and the No.1 ranked wrestler in the nation at that time, Nick Gwiazdowski. The last one took place on New Year’s Day in the Southern Scuffle in which he finished second overall. Denzel was able to take down two other highly ranked opponents before falling to the No.4 ranked wrestler at that time in the championship match.
Another noteworthy Mountaineer is 125 pound Vito Pasone, who has done more than his fair share to help put the team where they are now.
Heading into the match against Indiana on Sunday, in which the Mountaineers received ten more votes than the Hoosiers in the USA Today Top 25 poll,
Pasone said the team has to go in with [their] heads clear and focused on winning this match.
“Anybody can beat anybody on any given day,” Pasone said.
For both of the two leaders as they head into Sunday, their own personal goals are to perfect the little things. These little things they referred to are specific techniques and positions that are always important in order to come out on top.
Specifically, Dejournette mentioned continuously getting better.
“If you don’t get better you’re going to the stay the same and ultimately get worse because of it,” Dejournette said.
He went on to say that, although tough, it’s important to keep pushing even when the normal wear-and-tear of the body says no.
There seems to be a checklist for the two on their secret to defeating their opponents: wrestling harder when tired, keeping good position and battling through tough spots.
The regular season has passed and that is exactly how the team views it — in the past. Vito describes it as “water under the bridge.”
“You just have to have a short memory and look forward to what’s coming,” Pasone said.
What’s coming is a very equally ranked Hoosier team who defeated, at the time, a No. 20 seeded Minnesota team earlier in the season. Minnesota is now ranked No.18 overall and Indiana, although on a five-match losing streak, is looking to turn things around against the Black and Gold.
The two are set to face off Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Bloomington, Indiana.
Story by: Noah Gerringer, Sports Reporter