Irwin era at WLU opens with victory
WEST LIBERTY — The Danny Irwin era at West Liberty couldn’t have had a better start Wednesday night. The nationally ranked Hilltoppers posted a convincing, 48-3, college wrestling rout of visiting WVU Tech before a nice-sized crowd inside the ASRC on the Ohio County hilltop.
The Hilltoppers, who checked in at No. 12 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association D-II preseason Top 25, won seven of the eight matches contested and recorded four pins. Three of those falls came after halftime, something the pleased Irwin, who was named the D-II Coach of the Year last season when he led then-Wheeling Jesuit University to a national runnerup finish.
“I think the way those last five guys went out there and competed we finished things off in a manner of what we expect out of our wrestling program,” Irwin said.
Leading 21-3 at the half after receiving forfeits at 125 (Cole Laya) and 149 (Jamie Ward) and getting a pin from Darius Bunch (141) and a decision from Blake Miller (157), the Hilltoppers used pins by Chance Morgan (174), No. 7 Logan Kemp (197) and Chase Logan (285); a major decision from Chase Morgan (165) and a technical fall by Isaiah Myers (184) to complete the rout.
“It’s all about how you finish, but you have to have a starting point,” Irwin stressed. “No matter how good you think you are in practice, until you’re out there against another team that is going to fight back just as hard, you don’t know what you’ve got.”
Myers, a former Wheeling Park state champion, dominated his match against Jacob Thomas from the start. The Hilltopper senior led 4-1 after one period and 6-2 entering the third where he piled up a dozen points, the final four coming just ahead of the final buzzer to secure the 18-3 triumph.
“There’s a guy that wasn’t sure about some things going into the year, but he’s somebody that has put it (the time) in and trusted us as coaches,” Irwin added of Myers. “The fans probably saw that tonight because the things we were shouting to him and coaching him up on, he was very in tune to those things.
“He’s a good model for some of these other guys. These guys (my assistants) are in the corner for a reason. They (our wrestlers) need to look to us a little bit more.”
Myers was happy with his first outing.
“I pushed the pace the entire time, which is what I wanted to do,” he explained. “I need to get in better shape yet. There’s always room to grow and that’s what I look forward to against good competition on Saturday.”
The No. 3-ranked Bunch looked really good in return to competition.
“I think with the level of competition in our room and the way he pushes day-in and day-out, I expected that,” Irwin said of Bunch’s performance after he red-shirted last year. “After taking a year off, per se, it was nice to see him go out there and wrestle like he did.”
Bunch said he couldn’t wait to get back on the mat.
“No rust. I was so excited after taking the year off. I’m wrestling up a weight class this season, I’m excited.”
Irwin knows things will get tougher as the youthful Golden Bears just couldn’t stack up.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround. That team we faced tonight had some solid guys in it, but come Saturday we’re going to be facing some teams that are going to being swinging just as heavy of a hammer as what we’re going to be swinging,” he said of the Mount Union Invitational. “We will really find out where we are at and where we really need to be getting to.”
The WLU Acrobatics and Tumbling squad performed at halftime.
The first-ever Mountain East Conference wrestling tournament will be held at West Liberty on Saturday, Feb. 1. In addition to the Hilltoppers, also competing will be top-ranked Notre Dame College, UNC-Pembroke, Fairmont State, Urbana and Davis & Elkins.
A little more than 500 fans took in last night’s match.
West Liberty has 13 former Wheeling Jesuit matmen on its roster.
WVU Tech competes at the NAIA level.
West Liberty 48, WVU Tech 3
125–Laya (WLU) won by forfeit; 133–Robertson (WT) d. Keaton, 9-5; 141–Bunch (WLU) p. McClaugherty, 6:34; 149–Ward (WLU) won by forfeit; 157–Miller (WLU) d. Stewart, 10-4; 165–Chs. Morgan (WLU) md. Crislip, 15-3; 174–Chn. Morgan (WLU) p. Campbell, 4:36; 184–Myers (WLU) tf. Thomas, 18-3; 197–Kemp (WLU) p. DeVaney, 2:42; 285–Logan (WLU) p. Rose, 1:41