WREST: Lineup modifications fall short against No. 9 Stevens


Ariel Reed

Senior Liam Flaherty controlled his opponent in the second period of his match to earn a 10-7 decision in hopes of leading the Colonels to victory.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Colonels took to the mat on Feb. 27 against No. 9 Stevens, where Wilkes fell 22-17 after defeating Delaware Valley 29-19 earlier in the week on Senior Day. 

After several concerns about whether or not the team would play, as their original opponent Lycoming was not able to participate due to COVID-19, head coach Jon Laudenslager pushed to get his team back on the mat for a potential postseason run.  

“It was important to us because we wanted to get our seniors in the navy and gold singlet at least one more time,” said Laudenslager. “The guys wrestled well, and it was an outstanding effort by all.”

Going into the meet, the Colonels expected the Ducks to be a challenging opponent due to the fact that they are nationally ranked. 

“We had a normal week of practice and focused on correcting a few things from the Delaware Valley match and working on a few things Stevens does very well,” said Laudenslager.  

After the Delaware Valley match, the Colonels had a week to make improvements. Preparing to face Stevens, seniors Moustafa Almeky and Liam Flaherty, as well as their teammates, knew that they would need to capitalize on any little advantage that they could get. 

“We watched film and everybody worked on improving on their mistakes from the week before,” said Almeky.  “We knew it was going to be an intense match, and they were going to bring a tougher challenge than Del Val, so it was mental preparation as well as physical.” 

Heading onto the mat, Wilkes jumped to an early six-point lead with a forfeit from the heavyweight contest, but they did not hold on to that lead for long. 

Stevens won the next five matches and tallied 19 points; however, senior Liam Flaherty knew that the team needed points and his match would be a momentum changer. 

“I knew that I was the match that could flip the whole meet. If I didn’t win, there was no chance of us pulling anything off,” said Flaherty. “Our coach had a plan to bump up the ladder half of the lineup to pick up wins, and I was the first person who was bumped up (157 lb. to 165 lb.). I knew if I broke the momentum, we had a chance again.” 

Flaherty won his match with a 10-7 decision, allowing Wilkes to have a chance to knock off the No. 9 team.

Continuing off of Flaherty’s momentum, a 6-4 decision from sophomore James Geiger and a technical fall from junior John Devito left the Colonels needing one more win to take the match. 

Almeky entered the ring with a highly anticipated uphill battle, as he was matched up against Stevens’ Michael Dooley, a nationally ranked opponent. 

Almeky stayed in close contention throughout the first two periods, tying the score at two heading into the third. 

All of the athletes in the gym rose to their feet as Almeky and Dooley entered the final period, as both teams knew what was on the line. Almeky held tough for the early minutes of the last period, but fell 3-2 and could not find a way to snag one more point. 

Despite the loss, Almeky knew that this was not the end, and this match could serve as a lesson to other Wilkes wrestlers. 

“We’re very young, and it’s imperative for our guys to get a feel for the intensity that they will need going forward in a great college wrestling program,” said Almeky. “Winning and losing will always take care of itself, but it’s important to go out there with a lot of heart and wrestle to 100 percent of your ability.”

The Colonels have one last chance to wrestle with “a lot of heart” on Sunday, March 7 at noon against Alvernia. Fans are not allowed in attendance, but a live stream can be found at gowilkesu.com.