App State wrestling dominates Gardner-Webb, Appalachian Open


Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics

Redshirt senior Cody Bond embraces applause from the Mountaineer crowd after securing a second round pinfall victory.

Ben Brady, Reporter

A dominant 42-3 conference victory against Gardner-Webb and a title-winner at the Appalachian Open tournament capped off January for App State wrestling.

In their Jan. 25 match against the Bulldogs, the Mountaineers won every match but one, including three by pinfall, improving to 3-0 in conference competition this season. 

“That’s the most aggressive I’ve seen our team in a number of years,” head coach JohnMark Bentley said. “We matched up against a team that is actually a pretty decent team, and we kind of made it look lopsided.” 

The Mountaineers opened action with seven straight victories, eventually reaching a 35-0 lead.

In the 125-pound matchup, No. 22 redshirt sophomore Caleb Smith began the night with a second round pinfall victory, his sixth pin of the season. No. 25 super senior Codi Russell secured a 16-7 major decision victory in the 133-pound match and 141-pound sophomore Heath Gonyer won by forfeit. 

All-American redshirt senior Jonathan Millner won by pinfall less than a minute into the first round of his 149-pound bout, improving his season record to 12-1.

Redshirt senior Cody Bond also secured a victory in his 157-pound matchup with a second round pinfall victory, his second pin of the season. 

In the night’s marquee matchup, No. 16 redshirt junior Will Formato faced off against a fellow NCAA qualifier, Gardner-Webb’s RJ Mosley, in the 165-pound match. After three periods and a two-minute overtime period, the score remained an even 1-1. Two more 30-second overtime periods were not enough to break the tie. Because Formato had a two-second advantage in overtime riding time, he picked up a 2-1 decision win.

Redshirt sophomore Caleb Smith battles with a Gardner-Webb wrestler on his way to a second round victory. (Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics)

Though Formato ultimately picked up the close victory, he acknowledged what he could have executed better in the match. 

“I knew I was going to win, I had full confidence in that, I just didn’t know how,” Formato said. “I was happy with the fact that I got the win, but I wish I would have been a little bit more offensive.”

No. 26 super senior Thomas Flitz picked up a 12-4 major decision victory in the 174-pound matchup to extend the Mountaineers shutout lead. In the 184-pound match, after sitting at a 2-2 tie entering the third period, redshirt junior Barrett Blakely fell 5-3 by a close decision for the Mountaineers’ lone loss of the night.

Freshman Wyatt Miller won a hard-fought 4-3 decision in the 197-pound matchup for his third straight victory before redshirt junior Michael Burchell closed out the night with an 8-0 major decision.

The Mountaineers returned to Varsity Gym on Jan. 29 for the annual Appalachian Open, where the team finished with 10 semifinalists, four finalists and a title in the 141-pound bracket from Gonyer due to a medical forfeit.

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Kellison joined Gonyer as a finalist in the bracket, and sophomore Ethan Oakley finished as a finalist in the 133-pound bracket alongside three other App State semifinalists. In the 174-pound bracket, redshirt sophomore Brett Mordecai also finished as a finalist after three wins.

 Two of the Mountaineers’ third place finishers, junior Sean Carter at 133 and redshirt junior Jacob Sartorio at 285, finished with a 4-1 record. Sophomore Kobe Early finished in third place alongside Carter with three pins and a 3-1 start to his day.

 Freshman Will Miller and sophomore Tommy Askey each finished 3-2, notching fourth place, respectively. 

In February, the Mountaineers face four Southern Conference opponents before competing for the SoCon Championship in March. Bentley expressed the importance of his team constantly getting better up until postseason competition. 

“For us, the goal is to keep improving each and every day until March,” Bentley said. “If we’re executing, we’re getting the most out of our training, we’re attacking, we’re scoring points, and if we do that, I think we’ll put ourselves in the position to compete for another conference championship.” 

The Mountaineers’ next match is on the road against SoCon opponent Chattanooga Sunday at 2 p.m.