Feb. 20, 2010
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After dropping two of the first three bouts of the night, Navy went on to win the remaining seven and earn a 26-6 victory over arch rival Army in the annual Star Match held Saturday evening at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. While the Midshipmen now own a 44-5-5 series advantage, the rout marked Navy's 10th consecutive win over its service academy rival.
"I am so proud of our guys," said an elated Bruce Burnett. "When you look at this match on paper, this wasn't supposed to happen. They had beaten us at several of the weight classes either last year or in competitions earlier this season. I can go down the list of wrestlers who gutted it out, gave their heart, believed in themselves. This is the biggest win against Army since I've been here. They rose above and got the job done."
While there were countless performances that displayed courage and desire over the course of the evening, Navy freshman Andrew Buck (Carson, Wash.) provided the Mids with an amazing come-from-behind win over Collin Wittmeyer at 184 pounds. After knotting the match up in the third period with a takedown, Buck lost a pair of points less than 30 seconds later after being called for an illegal move. Buck, however, scored the takedown with 21 seconds remaining to tie the score at 4-4. Despite the scored, Wittmeyer held the advantage after building up more than a minute's worth of riding time, forcing Buck to allow Wittmeyer out of the hold and giving him the opportunity for a last second takedown. Buck did just that, scoring a two-point nearfall at the buzzer to send it to sudden victory. Starting in the neutral position, Buck was able to bring Wittmeyer down and tried to lean him back onto his back. Despite multiple tries, Buck finally was able to roll and swing around Wittmeyer for the takedown with 18 seconds remaining in the one-minute sudden victory period.
"Can you believe Andrew Buck coming back," said Burnett. "He's had several injuries over the last few months and he just gutted it out."
The Mids received another emotional lift from junior Allan Stein (Portland, Maine) who has spent his entire collegiate wrestling career at 125 pounds but was asked to step into the role at 133 pounds. Stein, a scrappy, speedy wrestler who leaves everything he has on the mat, won perhaps the biggest match of his career. Stein built a 5-3 lead after the opening period that included a takedown followed by a two-point nearfall, but his foe, sophomore Travis Coffey, proved a valid foe as he put together a pair of escapes and a takedown with a minute to go in the second period to knot the match at 7-7. Stein scored the escape at the end of the period and opened the final period with an escape to push his lead to two. Coffey, though, was credited with a takedown with 47 seconds left to tie the match at 9-9. Stein broke free and was able to hold on for the 10-9 win.
"I'm naturally about 135 pounds, so for me to cut two pounds versus 10 pounds was a noticeable difference for me," said Stein. "I felt fresher and was able to press the pace a little."
For Stein, the win was significant for a number of reasons. "I had that loss against Army from my Plebe Year in the back of my head. I thought to myself, `this is the last chance I have to wrestle against Army at Alumni Hall and win. This is truly the most excited I've ever been after a win. It's a much bigger win than any other match I've ever wrestled. It was a special win for me because it was against Army and it was at home. My dad was able to drive down to watch and my high school coach, Coach Kirk, drove all the way down here. It meant a lot to me to have all of them here."
"When you wrestle Allan, you know what you are going to get," said Burnett. "I knew that Allan would give everything he had in his tank and in his heart."
Familiar foes Matt Pagan (Carteret, N.J.) of Navy and Casey Thome of Army met in the 141-pound match and based on record alone, Thome clearly had the advantage. Thome came into the match boasting a 23-5 record and had won 10 consecutive matches, while Pagan had produced a 20-14 record and was coming off a second-place finish at the All-Academy Championship.
Pagan was the aggressor early on, but as the match continued both wrestlers began to tactically stalk one another. Pagan built a 3-1 lead with 1:48 to go in the second period, but a Thome takedown with just over a minute to go tied things up. Pagan took a 4-3 lead at the end of the period, however Thome would again tie the match with an escape to start the final period. After the two wrestlers rode out the one-minute sudden victory period, the match headed to a pair of 30-second tie breakers. Pagan selected the down position in the first tie breaker and was able to break loose with 20 seconds to go to take a 5-4 lead. Fight as he may, Thome was unable to break free from Pagan's hold in the second 30-second tie breaker and Pagan scored a huge win for the Mids.
Team captain Glenn Shober (Reading, Pa.) used the momentum built by his teammates to help him upset eighth-ranked Matt Kyler, who came into the match with an impressive 27-2 record. After a scoreless opening period, Kyler scored the first point with an escape to begin the second stanza. The final period began with a Shober escape and with 57 seconds remaining, the senior took Kyler to the match for a 3-1 advantage. Unable to ride him out, Kyler was able to narrow the gap with an escape, but Shober sealed the win with a takedown with just four seconds remaining to upset one of the nation's best at 149 pounds.
"I've got to thank Coach Burnett for preparing us," said Shober, who picked up his first win over Army in the annual dual. "Mentally, I knew I could do it. I think the momentum that we built after winning four matches in a row really got me up. This is definitely the biggest upset of my career."
"We really couldn't have scripted Glenn's match any more than how it turned out," said Burnett. "You wouldn't believe that we actually had talked prior to the match about him going for a last second takedown. He was well prepared and his weight management this week was probably the best it's been all year. Glenn did a great job of preparing and believing in himself."
Additionally, Navy received wins from sophomore 125-pound Aaron Kalil (Salem, N.H.), 157-pound Bryce Saddoris (Spring Creek, Nev.) and junior 165-pound Robby Neill (Brick, N.J.) and Scott Steele (Towson, Md.) who earned an 11-7 win in what was his 100th career match.
"The preparation and hard work is honestly like no other sport in that you see immediate results when you focus on those two aspects," added Burnett. "On the flip side, that can certainly work against you, but it proves how valuable preparation and execution are. They are just words, it's about hard work and seeing that hard work through.
The Midshipmen will be back in action in two weeks when they make the short journey to Bethlehem, Pa. to take part in the 2010 EIWA Championship, slated for March 6-7.
Navy 26, Army 6
Alumni Hall Annapolis, Md.
174 Ryan Mergen (Army) dec. Mike Billings (Navy), 5-3
184 Andrew Buck (Navy) dec. Collin Wittmeyer (Army), 8-6 SV
197 #16 Richard Starks (Army) dec. Russ Kropp (Navy), 8-4
285 #9 Scott Steele (Navy) dec. Orion Ross (Army), 11-7
125 Aaron Kalil (Navy) dec. Lance Penhale (Army), 11-9
133 Allan Stein (Navy) dec. Travis Coffey (Army), 10-9
141 Matt Pagan (Navy) dec. Casey Thome (Army), 5-4 TB
149 Glenn Shober (Navy) dec. #8 Matt Kyler (Army), 5-2
157 #7 Bryce Saddoris (Navy) tech fall Daniel Young (Army), 17-2
165 Robby Neill (Navy) dec. Patrick Marchetti (Army), 6-3
### Go Navy ###