No. 7 ranked Jesuit turns back West Liberty in dual

WHEELING — After suffering a pair of close dual-meet setbacks to NCAA Division II nationally ranked opponents, Wheeling Jesuit didn’t waste any time Sunday in making a statement against Ohio County rival West Liberty.

The homestanding Cardinals won the first three matches to take an 15-0 lead they would never relinquish in soaring past the Hilltoppers, 38-9, inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center. All told, Wheeling Jesuit claimed eight of the 10 matches.

Fourth-ranked Tyler Warner, a Claymont product, got the Cardinals off to flying start with a 25-second pin of Steven Slack. Warner, a returning All-American, secured a takedown and put Slack on his back immediately.

Jared Donahue was awarded a forfeit at 141 and Tyler Alberts’ 6-4 decision over Josh Ridgeway at 149 upped the count to 15-0.

“Tyler got us off to a good start and that’s something that I felt we needed to do a better job at,” Wheeling Jesuit second-year head coach Danny Irwin said. “Thursday night against a very good team in University of Indy. They came out and they hit us in the face first in almost every match. For us to come out and set the tone early, that’s what I expect. That’s what we need moving forward to have the success that we are capable of having.”

The Hilltoppers stopped the bleeding when Oak Glen grad Josh Cornell outlasted former Meadowbrook standout Tyler Jenkins, 5-3, in overtime at 157. The back-and-forth match was deadlocked at the end of seven minutes, but Cornell, a 4-year starter for the Black-and-Gold, recorded a takedown late in the 1-minute overtime period to make it 15-3.

“In wrestling when you have the momentum like they did, it’s hard to come back from and switch it,” West Liberty head coach Mitch Smith said. “They are pretty stacked up top a little bit, so we had to start off well. We didn’t do that tonight.”

Smith was very pleased with effort that Cornell put forth.

“Gritty. Gritty match,” he noted. “Josh kept wrestling and kept his composure for seven minutes, and then some. He showed real grit out there to get that win.”

Keegan Driscoll, ranked 7th nationally at 165, scored a 12-4 major decision over Owen Zeiders, a freshman from University High, before Connor Craig (174) and Aiden Pasiuk (184) posted back-to-back technical falls that bumped the count to 29-3.

West Liberty’s Logan Kemp, a returning national qualifier, pinned his opponent at 197 in 4:28 to cut the deficit to 29-9, but Wheeling Jesuit national champion Terrance Fanning, ranked No. 2, made quick work of his foe by an 18-1 count. Freshman Cole Laya, from East Fairmont, major-decisioned his opponent for the final of 38-9.

“Our guys are starting to recognize that after suffering some tough losses that bonus points are crucial in dual meets,” Irwin noted.

“Just like (Cole) Laya there in that final match. He could’ve took his foot off the pedal, but he continued to wrestle and got the bonus points.”

The Cardinals are back in action Saturday at Urbana at 5 p.m. They don’t return home until Jan. 18 against Mercyhurst. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, welcome Ashland Saturday at 2 p.m.