BOONE – The Appalachian State wrestling team has dominated its share of teams during the regular season this year. The Mountaineers did the same thing to visiting VMI by taking a 43-0 dual-match victory at Varsity Gym on Feb. 22.
The Mountaineers (9-3, 6-1 SoCon) sprinted to a 20-0 lead by winning their first four matches by technical fall, which is worth five points each. It’s the fourth time this season App State has shut out an opponent.
The Mountaineers did the same thing to Presbyterian (48-0), Duke (45-0) and The Citadel (44-0) this season. Appalachian State coach JohnMark Bentley credited his team’s abilities throughout the lineup for making shutouts possible.
“We’ve got a good team,” Bentley said. “It’s hard to get a shutout in Division I wrestling. I think it’s our (fourth) shutout this season. It speaks to how balanced our team is. We have a solid wrestler in every weight class.”
The most highly individual match included Appalachian State’s Thomas Flitz against VMI’s Neal Richards at 174 pounds. Richards is the defending Southern Conference champion in the weight division and is ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Flitz is ranked No. 33 in the country and had a score to settle with Richards, who pinned Flitz when the two met during the regular season last year at VMI.
Flitz opened an 8-4 lead on Richards at Varsity Gym by trading four two-point take downs in the first two periods with four Richards escapes.
“I wasn’t feeling too good because when I went out there I had a little sickness going on,” Flitz said. “I was still determined that I was ready to go, so I went out there and tried to fire out on all cylinders and get those first takedowns in the first period.”
Richards started a comeback in the third period. The roles started to reverse when Richards scored three takedowns, which were countered by three Flitz escapes, leaving Flitz with a 12-11 lead that he managed to keep the rest of the match.
“That was a big win for Thomas Flitz,” Bentley said. “The last time they wrestled (Richards) pinned Thomas, so that was a big nationally-ranked win against a good opponent.”
Appalachian State didn’t trail in an individual match until the 197 weight class when VMI’s Zach Brown took a 1-0 lead on Demazio Samuel, who was called for an illegal slam. Samuel rallied back by scoring five points in the third period and took a 5-1 victory.
Appalachian State turns its attention to the SoCon Tournament, which will be in the Holmes Center on March 8. The Mountaineers are the host, but go into the tournament as the second-place team behind league champion Campbell.
It’s a chance for the Mountaineers to avenge their lone SoCon loss of the season.
“Our goal is to win the conference tournament,” Bentley said. “We were disappointed with that result we had down in Buies Creek and we feel like we can win the tournament. And he guys are motivated. That’s exactly what we plan on doing.”