Before he had an opportunity to embrace double-overtime winner Cody Bond, teary-eyed App State Wrestling coach JohnMark Bentley jumped high into the air to celebrate an individual conference title that was as dramatic as it was unlikely.
The Mountaineers put on a crowd-stirring show to start the final round of the SoCon Championship tournament at the Holmes Center, with their first five finalists all clinching NCAA Championships berths by securing league titles.
App State rallied to take a late lead in the team standings during that inspired run, but Campbell ended up as the first-place squad with 92 points and three individual champs among the 10 weight classes.
The Mountaineers totaled 87 points, followed by Chattanooga in third with 64.
Matching the school record of five SoCon champions set previously in 2003, App State benefited from individual titles by Jonathan Millner (149 pounds), Codi Russell (125 pounds), Sean Carter (133 pounds), Anthony Brito (141 pounds) and Bond (157 pounds).
With top-20 NCAA Coaches rankings for third-place finisher Will Formato (No. 16 at 165 pounds) and runner-up Thomas Flitz (No. 13 at 174 pounds), App State has hopes of sending a whopping seven out of its 10 starters to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
Aside from Carter’s win over Jake Rotunda of The Citadel, App State’s finals victories from Millner, Russell, Brito and Bond all came in head-to-head matchups with Campbell to trim away at the Camels’ lead, which stood at 21 points following the semifinal round.
Bond, a first-year starter who left the team for a stretch earlier in his career and entered this season with a 9-9 career record, used an improbable four-point near fall to break a second-overtime tie in a 10-5 decision against Benjamin Barton, who had won the regular season meeting.
Bond forced overtime at 5-all by producing a takedown in the final minute of the third period, and neither wrestler scored in the one-minute Sudden Victory period because Bond was able to avoid a takedown after Barton had moved into a scoring position. After that, there are two 30-second TB-1 periods with each wrestler getting a positional choice, and Barton was looking for an escape with Bond starting on top.
Instead, Bond executed a tilt that put Barton on his back for four points. Barton started the next 30-second period on top, and Bond avoided any trouble after using an escape to pull ahead 10-5.
In a matchup of top-15 wrestlers at 149, Millner rode out the second period to build a two-minute advantage in riding time against Joshua Heil. Millner officially took a 1-0 lead with an escape early in the third period, then added the bonus point for a 2-0 decision that allowed him to repeat as the 149 champion and improved his career record in SoCon duals/tournaments to 20-0.
Russell followed a 2019 title at 133 pounds with a second championship in his first year at 125, as he rolled to an 11-4 decision against Zurich Storm, and Brito stretched his lead to 6-2 by the end of the second period in a 7-3 decision against Campbell’s Shannon Hanna. A newcomer at 133 this season, Carter used a takedown with 12 seconds left in the first period to move ahead in a 3-1 decision against the top-seeded Rotunda.
The unbeaten top seed in a tough 165 weight class that includes four nationally ranked wrestlers, Formato overcame a last-minute semifinal loss to The Citadel’s Dazon Casto to fight back for third place. He won 5-3 against 21st-ranked RJ Mosley of Gardner-Webb in the third-place match.
Flitz reached the 174 final for the second straight year before dropping a 9-3 decision against top-seeded Austin Murphy of Campbell, while Michael Burchell went 2-2 in the heavyweight division.
Julian Gorring was involved in a pair of tight matches decided by two points and one point at 184 pounds, and Mason Fiscella’s day began with a two-point quarterfinal loss.
Final Team Scores
1. Campbell, 92
2. App State, 87
3. Chattanooga, 64
4. Gardner-Webb, 50
5. The Citadel, 43.5
6. VMI, 18
7. Presbyterian, 6.5
125: (1) Codi Russell
SF: Benny Gomez, Presbyterian W, MD 14-4
Final: Zurich Storm, Campbell W, Dec 11-4
133: (2) Sean Carter
Cameron Chicella, VMI W, TF 16-1 (7:00)
SF: Todd Carter, Gardner-Webb W, Dec 10-6
Final: Jake Rotunda, The Citadel W, Dec 3-1
141: (2) Anthony Brito
Freddy Junko, VMI W, MD 10-2
SF: Trevon Majette, Gardner-Webb W, Dec 3-2 (TB-1)
Final: Shannon Hanna, Campbell W, Dec 7-3
149: (1) Jonathan Millner
SF: Selwyn Porter, The Citadel W, MD 10-2
Final: Josh Heil, Campbell W, Dec 2-0
157: (2) Cody Bond
Grant Speer, The Citadel W, MD 14-2
SF: Zachary Phillips, Presbyterian W, Dec 8-5
Final: Benjamin Barton, Campbell W, Dec 10-5 (TB-1)
165: (1) Will Formato
SF: Dazjon Casto, The Citadel L, Dec 6-3
Consolation: Jon Hoover, VMI W, MD 13-0
3rd place: RJ Mosley, Gardner-Webb W, Dec 5-3
174: (2) Thomas Flitz
Ethan Carpenter, VMI W, TF 16-0 (5:42)
SF: Evan Schenk, Gardner-Webb W, Dec 6-3
Final: Austin Murphy, Campbell L, Dec 9-3
184: (5) Julian Gorring
Zach Brown, VMI L, Dec 8-6
Jha’Quan Anderson, GWU L, Dec 3-2
197: (4) Mason Fiscella
Samuel Mora, Gardner-Webb L, Dec 7-5
Consolation: Tyler Mousaw, VMI L, Fall 3:38
285: (4) Michael Burchell
Grayson Walthall, Chattanooga W, Dec 7-5
SF: Michael McAleavey, The Citadel L, Fall 1:32
Consolation: Giomar Ramos, VMI W, DQ Stalls
3rd place: Anthony Perrine, Gardner-Webb L, Fall 3:13