WHEELING, W.Va. -- In front of a welcoming and large season-opening crowd, redshirt senior Sawyer Leppla made his return to the lineup a convincing one. Leading 17-13, Leppla posted a 6-1 win at 197 for No. 23 Wheeling Jesuit's fifth win and pushed his team over the top to seal the 20-16 upset of No. 10 University of Indianapolis.
Leppla joined fellow senior Dustin Warner (133), who had the lone fall of the night, Keegan Driscoll (165) and freshmen Connor Craig (157) and Aiden Pasiuk (184) to have their arms raised in victory for the Cardinals (1-0).
"I am really excited about the effort tonight. A lot of the matches could have gone one way or the other," said first-year WJU head coach Danny Irwin. "It is always nice to have a crowd like this as the support from the campus, the community and the Ohio Valley was a big factor that drew me to come to WJU and lead this program."
The victory gave Irwin his first head coaching victory in his debut along with his first upset of a higher nationally-ranked opponent.
"We wanted to use tonight as a stepping stone on where we want to be (as a program)," noted the victorious coach. "We will learn from tonight and get back to work this weekend."
The Greyhounds' (0-1) DJ Smith tied the 125-pound match with an escape and registered the lone takedown with 24 seconds left for the tight, 4-1, win over Tyler Warner.
At 133, Dustin Warner never trailed and picked up his brother. In a scoreless second, Warner posted two back points with 38 seconds left for the 2-0 lead. Ana Abduljelil pulled to within a point, 3-2, with 43 seconds left in the final period, before Warner escaped nine seconds later. Warner continued the late pressure and brought the first roar of the night from the crowd by putting Abdulijelil on his back and pinning him with 3.3 seconds left to put WJU ahead 6-3.
"DJ was going against a returning national qualifier, so he was no slouch," point out Irwin. "DJ was able to capitalize as he is a finisher and there was no doubt when he put the kid on his back he had the fall."
No. 2 ranked Nick Crume tied the match with a 9-2 decision over freshman Jared Donahue. The first-year Cardinal, though, battled from the start and took down Crume with eight seconds left in the first period for the 2-0 lead. Crume proved to be too strong on top in the final two periods.
UIndy enjoyed its final lead when Kyle Barkovich recorded an individual upset in the 157-pound bout. Barkovich put together five separate takedowns and had No. 12 rated redshirt freshman Dylan Taylor off guard all seven minutes for the 12-3 major decision and 10-6 team score.
In the big surprise on the night, freshman Craig made an outstanding first collegiate match. The Cincinnati, Ohio native took down Tony Vaughn 22 seconds in the 157-pound match and added two back points for a 4-0 lead after one minute into the bout. Craig had a second takedown to end the first, a reversal to start the second and two near fall tallies for a 10-1 margin after five minutes. The Cardinal did not let up until he posted the tech fall, 18-3, at the 6:42 mark to give WJU an 11-10 lead into intermission.
"Connor has been that way from day 1 with us, as it doesn't matter whether it is a competition or practice, he goes all out and is hungry," said Irwin.
Making his return from an injury, Driscoll put the third WJU win on the scoreboard. The 165-pound Cardinal battled back with a second-period takedown and then keep going until he locked in with 1:06 left and took away the 8-5 decision to make it 14-10.
Cayden Whitaker took a late 7-1 win over Reyse Wallbrown at 174 and pulled UIndy back to within a point, 14-13.
The second WJU freshman Pasiuk gave the Cardinals back the momentum. The 184-pounder established an early 4-1 lead after a period, but saw the Greyhounds' Brody Conner come back to tied it, 4-4, heading to the third frame. Pasiuk escaped Conner with 1:05 left, before he left no doubt with a takedown with 11 ticks left on the clock for the 7-5 final.
"It was a highly competitive match as we had seen their guy wrestler last year. Aiden dug deep for the win as he found a way," explained the WJU coach.
Pasiuk gave a 17-13 lead for Leppla to seal the WJU team victory. The WJU senior rushed Jordan Collins 22 seconds into the match and never trailed. Leading 2-1 going to the second stanza, Leppla added an escape and a reversal takedown on his way to the 6-1 win. His victory sealed gave WJU a seven-point cushion, 20-13, heading to the final match.
"Sawyer did a lot of good things tonight. It is nice to have him and Terrance (Fanning) as bookends at the end of our lineup," said Irwin.
In his first heavyweight match after competing at 197 pounds the last two seasons, Fanning started strong with a 2-0 single-leg takedown at 1:57 of the first period over No. 8 ranked Dylan Faulkenberg. The visitor rode Fanning for the second period and escaped to tie the bout, 2-2, 11 seconds into the final period. Fanning made two shots and narrowly missed registering the winning points, but Faulkenberg held on for the 3-2 decision.
WJU heads over to the Washington & Jefferson Invitational on Saturday morning, Nov. 11, starting at 9 a.m.
125: DJ Smith (UINDY) dec. Tyler Warner (WJU), 4-1 3 0
133: #2 DJ Warner (WJU) pins Ana Abduljelil (UINDY), 6:57 3 6
141: #2 Nick Crume (UINDY) dec. Jared Donahue (WJU), 9-2 6 6
149: Kyle Barkovich (UINDY) maj. dec. #12 Dylan Taylor (WJU), 12-3 10 6
157: Connor Craig (WJU) tech fall Tony Vaughn (UINDY), 18-3 6:32 10 11
165: Keegan Driscoll (WJU) dec. Shelden Struble (UINDY), 8-5 10 14
174: Cayden Whitaker (UINDY) dec. Reyse Wallbrown (WJU), 7-1 13 14
184: Aidan Pasiuk (WJU) dec. Brody Conner (UINDY), 7-5 13 17
197: Sawyer Leppla (WJU) dec. Jordan Collins (UINDY), 6-1 13 20
285 #8 Dylan Faulkenberg (UINDY) dec. Terrance Fanning (WJU), 3-2 16 20