The win avenged the Lions' 10-point loss to Liberty in last year's title match, and closed a dominating tournament run. Lindenwood gave up only 18 points through five matches going into the championship, and closed the two-day event losing only seven matches in all (plus one forfeit).
The Lions and Liberty were the first two programs to appear in consecutive finals in the NCWA National Duals' five-year history. No team has repeated as champion.
"This is the first time we've had our full lineup together this season," Lions coach Chad Smith said. "Everyone contributed. We took second last year, so I think we came in with something to prove. The guys bought in and believed in themselves."
Lindenwood, seeded second, opened with a bang, hitting for two pins from Blayne Shockley and Michael Caldwell in the opening matches for a 12-0 lead. The Lions' fast start continued with decisions by Jacob Janes (3-1), Craig Chiles (6-4), Derrick Weller (3-1) and Luke Roth (4-2) to push the lead to 24-0.
Liberty got its rally started in an unusual way, earning consecutive defensive falls from Keyshaun Ward at 174 and Royal Brettrager at 184 to cut the Lions' hard-earned lead in half at 24-12.
Aaron Thompson, the defending NCWA champion at 197, won a 4-0 match over Padric Lynch to earn Liberty another three points. But the ability of Lynch, a freshman, to hold off additional points by the more experienced Thompson was a key to the match.
"That was huge. To have a freshman come in and hold off their champion says a lot," Smith said. "Lynch had a great tourney for us."
Andrew Wilson, the NCWA runner-up at heavyweight last year, got a 13-5 major decision at 235 to get Liberty within 24-19, setting up a possible clinching win for the Flames that seemed improbable only minutes earlier.
But Lindenwood heavyweight Matthew Atley spent little time in scoring a pin in the first period to seal the match.
"That was remarkable too," Smith said. "(Atley) had not wrestled since high school five years ago. He's been playing football for us, and came out to wrestle in his final semester. Then he comes up and wins a dual for us . . . wow."
The fourth-seeded Lions knew they'd need a strong start after watching Liberty rally twice to win earlier matches with their strength in the upper weights buoyed by returning All-Americans Royal Brettrager, Aaron Thompson and Andrew Wilson. The contrast played out in the semifinals, where Lindenwood gave up the 125-pound match against Central Florida, but then won the next eight matches to take control in a 30-15 win. In Liberty's semifinal against top-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County, the Flames won six straight matches starting at 157 pounds and came from behind to take a 26-19 win.
"We needed a good start down low, because we knew they were tough up top," said Smith, who said the title win is a big confidence boost for his team as it goes into a tough stretch on its schedule. The Lions face Central Missouri on Thursday, then take on Central Oklahoma on Friday.
Central Florida won the final two matches, including a pin by heavyweight Shane Haller, to take third place with a 27-21 win over Md.-Baltimore County. Following UCF's Brian
Radli's pin at the start, neither team led by more than five points going into the
Grand Valley State won the fifth place match, 35-16, over Marion Military Institute (Ala.),
helped by two pins and two forfeits among the first five matches. Lindenwood-Belleville
took seventh place, 35-21, over The Apprentice School.
Seven of the top eight seeds advanced to the quarterfinals, and sets up the NCWA
Championships in Allen, Texas, outside of Dallas from March 14-16.
The high school division, in its second year, featured four teams from three different
states. Auburn (Ala.) High School (Ala.) clinched the title with a 38-29 win over Pigeon
Forge (Tenn.) in a round-robin format tournament. Auburn tied with Fort Campbell (Ky.)
with a 2-1 record, but won the title based on its 37-36 win over Fort Campbell in the
opening round. Wayne County of Monitcello, Ky., also competed.
Listed below are the results from today's action. Complete results and boxscores can be
found in the results section at www.ncwa.net.
NCWA National Duals Results
Championship – Lindenwood-St. Charles 30, Liberty 19
3rd place – Central Florida 27, Md.-Baltimore County 21
5th place – Grand Valley State 35, Marion Military Inst. 16
7th place – Lindenwood-Belleville 35, The Apprentice School 21
9th place – Mercer 48, Middle Tennessee 12
11th place – Mass. Inst. of Technology 34, East Tennessee State 18
13th place – Georgia 33, Georgia Southern 27
15th place – Auburn 39, Tennessee Temple 15
Liberty 26, Md.-Baltimore County 19
Lindenwood-St. Charles 30, Central Florida 15
(1) UMBC 26, (10) Marion Military 19
(4) Liberty 30, (5) Lindenwood-Belleville 15
(3) Central Florida 22, (6) Grand Valley State 20
(2) Lindenwood-St. Charles 49, (7) Apprentice 3
High School Division
Auburn wins round-robin format with 3-0 record
Auburn (Ala.) 37, Fort Campbell (Ky.) 36
Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) 36, Wayne County (Ky.) 31
Auburn 45, Wayne County 34
Fort Campbell 40, Pigeon Forge 25
Auburn 38, Pigeon Forge 29
Fort Campbell 40, Wayne County 36