With only one minute remaining in the final match of the evening, App State senior captain Denzel Dejournette took down Gardner Webb’s Boyce Cornwell to earn two points that would seal his match 4-1, and give the No. 16 ranked Mountaineers a two point edge over the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
App State (11-2, 5-0 SoCon) took an early 13-0 lead against Gardner Webb (5-4, 2-2 SoCon) Tuesday night in Varsity Gym, looking as if they were going to dominate the match like head coach John Mark Bentley knew his team was capable of.
“I knew that if we went out and won all of the tough battles that we could dominate them,” Bentley said. “I also knew if we didn’t go out and win the tough battles then it would be really tough.”
Senior Vito Pisone kicked off the match with an early first round pin over Landon LoAlbo in the 125 pound weight class, giving the Mountaineers an early 6-0 lead.
“I had to do my job,” Pisone said. ”It started off in the other guys favor and I just had to reset, re-focus and I had to give our team the best chance to win.”
Freshman and No. 24 ranked Colby Smith continued his dominance in the 133 pound division earning a 9-1 major decision win while improving to 22-7 on the season. Following Smith’s win, a come behind 11-10 victory from sophomore Irvin Enriquez at 141 gave the Mountaineers their early 13-0 cushion.
Ensuing the hot start, the next five were all Bulldogs, responding with 17 unanswered points. These five matches were the “tough battles” that Bentley said his team needed to win.
“I’ll be honest with you I didn’t think we wrestled very well tonight,” Bentley said. “The frustrating part for me is that we didn’t go out and win those close battles. We were trying to hang on and win by a takedown instead of going out to really make it a fight.”
The momentum changer came for Gardner Webb when former Jefferson High School teammates Tyler Marinelli (GW) and Forrest Przybysz (ASU) faced off at 165 pounds with the Bulldogs down 13-7. The Georgia natives found themselves tied heading into the third, but a takedown by Marinelli with 35 seconds remaining in the match gave him the 4-3 edge over his ex-mate.
Gardner Webb’s Austin Trott took down App State’s Nick Kee in a 6-3 decision at the 174 pound division, knotting the score at 13 all. Bulldog 184 pounder Hunter Gamble managed to take down David Peters-Logue with two seconds left to earn the major decision 9-1 and take a 17-13 lead over the Mountaineers with two matches remaining.
Stepping on the mat with his team down four, sophomore Randall Diabe had his mind set on giving the Black and Gold’s senior captain to take the mat with his team only one point down.
“I knew what I had to do,” Diabe recalled. “As I was warming up I kept looking at the score and saw that we were down so I knew it was kind of on me.
Diabe dominated Gardner Webb’s Payton Mills at the 197 pound weight class, shutting him out 4-0 in perhaps the most important match of the evening.
“I thought he [Diabe] wrestled a really solid match,” Bentley said. “He wrestled solid in all of his positions and he had good fundamentals. I was really proud of him. He may be the highlight of the night because if he doesn’t win then it doesn’t matter what Denzel does.”
Taking the circle with a perfect conference record on the line, No. 12 Dejournette took down Cornwell in a 4-1 decision to sneak the 19-17 team victory and seal the Mountaineers a fifth straight conference win.
“I was thinking a lot more than I should have I’m not going to lie to you,” Dejournette said. “I was thinking ‘I’ve got to get this win’ and I put too much pressure on myself instead of doing what I was supposed to do. It’s really easy to fold when you’re up by so much and then they come back and take the lead with two matches left.
Despite some mid match struggles for the Mountaineers, they still found a way to scrape by and get a big conference win against a testy opponent.
“We’ve got to be consistent in our performances,” Bentley said. “I think our guys for some reason keep wanting to look ahead, and when you do that you have someone slip up and beat you and fortunately we got the win tonight.”
Now his team can look ahead as they have their minds set on hosting rival Chattanooga on Feb. 5, where the Neers’ will look to win the SoCon regular season championship with a win.
Story By: John Robertson, Sports Reporter