Wrestling qualifies three for ‘Big Dance’ at conclusion of NCAA Southeast Regional

Posted on February 26th, 2019 by Danielle Staub

By Jeffrey Bentley, Assistant Sports Information Director

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — For the first time in their program’s history, the Averett University men’s wrestling team will be competing at the National Tournament. Averett had three wrestlers qualify during Day 2 at the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament.

Sophomore Sam Braswell was the first wrestler to qualify for Averett as the Daytona Beach, Florida, native picked up a win over Jalen White of Ferrum College in the semifinals at 125 pounds. Braswell scored a takedown and a 4-point near fall in the first period which really set the tone for the rest of the match as he led 6-1 at the end of the period. Those six points turned out to be crucial for Braswell as he only outscored White 12-11 in the final two frames. However, with the effort in the first period Braswell would hang on for the 18-12 decision victory sending him to the 2019 National Tournament and the regional title match. Unfortunately, Braswell would claim second place after a loss in the regional final, but for Braswell he was satisfied with being Averett’s first ever National Qualifier.

“It feels great to be Averett’s first ever NCAA Qualifier,” Braswell said. “Took a year but I am finally here. I just have to keep working and be persistent as I prepare for the National Tournament in two weeks.”

Freshman Jared Lough became the second ever Averett National Qualifier as the 157-pounder took second place. In his semifinal match, Lough was pitted against Hunter Neely from Washington & Jefferson University and won by a tight 1-0 decision. The Stafford, Virginia, native registered an escape point during the second period but Neely had over a minute of riding time on the clock to keep the match even at one. Lough, though, was able to ride Neely out for the entire third period to erase Neely’s riding time point and win the match. He would go onto drop the regional title match 5-3, but with the win over Neely he punched his ticket to the National Tournament.

“This is what I have worked for my entire life,” Lough said. “Training day in and day out to become the best wrestler I am today. The National Tournament will be the biggest stage I have competed on, and I’m ready to take advantage of my opportunity to show all the hard work that I have put in. My coaches have given me all the tools needed to be a national champion and it is now in my hands to come out on top. I am super excited to come back with a better result than this weekend and show fans and coaches everywhere what kind of wrestlers Averett has.”

The third and final qualifier for Averett came in the form of sophomore Brandon Woody at 141 pounds. Unlike Braswell and Lough, Woody had a much different route to the National Tournament. After losing his first match of the regional on Friday, Woody was put in a position to put together five straight victories to take third and qualify for nationals. The Chesterfield, Virginia, native won the first two matches before the end of Day 1 on Friday. He would extend his streak to four with two decision victories Saturday morning over Robert Duxbury of Delaware Valley University and Zach Bylykbashi of Washington & Lee University and returning regional champion to advance to the third place match.

The third place match was quite the thriller as Woody wrestled Hai Siu of Greensboro College and led 7-5 going into the third period. Siu chose bottom to start the period and escaped just a couple of seconds in to cut Woody’s lead to 7-6. Over the course of the final 1:58 of the match, Siu was forcing the issue looking for the go ahead takedown. Woody matched his intensity defensively, though, as the 141-pounder held off Siu for the remaining time left on the clock to win an exciting 7-6 decision. This win completed the comeback for Woody and cemented a spot for him in the National Tournament.

“My opening round loss was really tough on me,” Woody said. “But thanks to my coaches and teammates, they all made sure I knew I was okay and that I could fight back and still qualify by taking third. It feels amazing especially after not making the National Tournament last year. To qualify this year is such a good feeling.”

Sophomore Korpesh Gootee did not qualify for the National Tournament, but did take seventh place at 133 pounds. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, native lost his first match of the day on Saturday by decision to move into the seventh place match against Charlie Cunningham of Washington & Lee. Gootee was paced to a 4-1 victory via a second period takedown.

At the completion of the regional tournament, Averett finished in 10th as a team with 63 points. Head coach Tommy Owen was ecstatic with the performance his wrestlers turned in over the weekend and was happy to see their hard work pay off.

“I think it is a big accomplishment in order to qualify three kids for the National Tournament not even in your second year as a program but any year,” Averett head coach Tommy Owen said. “These are signs of hard work, determination, and our kids buying into our system. Last year missing out on the National Tournament was a hollow feeling. To comeback and put three into the National Tournament is exciting and heartwarming for the kids because they work so hard and you get to see that hard work pay off. This weekend sets the tone for the years to come.”

The 2019 National Tournament will commence on Friday, March 8, in Roanoke, Virginia.

To see this story on the Athletics website, CLICK HERE.