LEXINGTON, Va. - After a late rally by the Davidson College Wildcats, it all came down to the heavyweights. Virginia Military Institute’s Juan Adams was pitted against Davidson’s Ed Isola and tasked with not just getting a win, but a major decision.
And the Keydet came through in the clutch.
With VMI trailing its longtime Southern Conference nemesis Davidson 20-17 headed into the 10th and final bout Friday night at The Thunderdome, the Keydets needed at least a major decision from its heavyweight and Adams, who improved to 12-6 on the season, did so in dominant fashion, getting a 14-2 win over Isola to secure VMI’s 69th win over the Wildcats in program history.
Adams, who weighed in near the 285 pound limit, scored four takedowns against Isola, who gave up over 50 pounds to Adams. The Keydet picked up three nearfall points at the end of the match to secure the major decision, in addition to nearly three minutes of riding time.
Both teams won five matches during the night, with the first five bouts going back and forth as VMI (3-11, 1-2 SoCon) won the first, third and fifth matches before a 10-minute intermission after 157 pounds. The Keydets won at 165 pounds as well, the first time a team won back-to-back matches at The Thunderdome Friday night. Through six matches, VMI held a 17-6 edge on Davidson.
But the Wildcats (4-8, 0-2 SoCon) reeled off three straight wins at 174, 184 and 197 pounds to surge past VMI and grab a 20-17 lead, winning 174 pounds by fall and a technical fall at 197 pounds, added to a sudden victory at 184 pounds.
VMI got its night off to a strong start as Dalton Henderson notched a takedown of Philip Elias just five seconds into the 125 pound bout. After Elias hit a reversal, Henderson scored one of his own, setting up a first-period pin for the Keydet, his second-straight win by fall, giving VMI a 6-0 edge.
Davidson got justice from Elias’ brother, Anthony, at 133 pounds as the Wildcat bested Michael Flora 9-2, scoring six of his eight points in the third period with an escape, takedown and three nearfall points.
Emmitt Kelly helped the Keydets bounce back with a major decision at 141 pounds, scoring four takedowns in the seven-minute match, with two coming in the final two minutes. His opponent, James McCord got an escape but Kelly had also amassed nearly two minutes of riding time to get the eight-point difference and four team points on the board.
Once again, Davidson bounced back with the first of two sudden victories during the dual. VMI’s Shabaka Johns was down 6-3 at the end of the first period after his opponent, Kevin Birmingham, scored a takedown, two nearfall points, and a reversal with five seconds left, compared to Johns’ escape and takedown.
Johns started the second period on top as Birmingham earned an escape 15 seconds into the stanza to go up 7-3. After a minute and a half of scoreless wrestling, Johns logged a takedown with 16 seconds left to pull within two points of Birmingham’s lead, 7-5, headed into the third. The final period of regulation started neutral and a minute later, Johns scored a takedown to tie the bout 7-7. But Birmingham scored a takedown later in the first sudden victory period to get the 9-7 win and three team points.
VMI got the final win before the intermission, during which the team honored several of the programs alumni, as Ted Gottwald posted a 4-3 win over Nick Pappayliou. The Wildcat took Gottwald to the mat midway through the first period but Gottwald escaped to make it a 2-1 at the end of the opening period. VMI’s Three-Legged Stool award winner got a quick escape in the second period to level the bout 2-2, ending the second period.
The third stanza was full of controversy and intrigue. Pappayliou started on bottom and got an escape nine seconds later to go up 3-2 on Gottwald. But once in neutral, the Keydet got a takedown with 1:10 left in the period to go up 4-3. Towards the end of the match, Gottwald was nearly reversed but held on to stay neutral and secure the win.
After the intermission, VMI got back to its winning ways as Mark Darr utilized nine takedowns of Patrick Devlin en route to a 19-8 major decision. Darr’s bonus points would prove to be crucial down the stretch for the Keydets.
Davidson started its rally with a win by fall at 174 pounds as Nathaniel Powers pinned VMI’s Derek Thurman in 1:56. The 184 pounds bout was another close affair as Davidson’s Ian Solcz topped Hardy Hendren 3-1 in sudden victory.
After a scoreless first period, Solcz kicked of the second on bottom, earning the escape seven seconds in to take a 1-0 lead and score the only point of the period. Likewise, Hendren started the third on bottom, getting his escape 14 seconds in to tie the match 1-1. But Solcz used a takedown with 22 seconds left in sudden victory to earn the 3-1 win and set up his 197 pound teammate.
In the penultimate bout, Scott Patrick logged a 22-4 technical fall against VMI’s Andrew Embree to push the Davidson lead to 20-17, setting up the drama for the final match of the night.
VMI returns to action Wednesday night in Durham, N.C. as the Keydets take on Duke University. Action is set for 7 p.m. at Car Gymnasium.
Friday Jan. 24, 2014 - VMI vs. Davidson - The Thunderdome (Cocke Hall) - Lexington, Va.
VMI 21, Davidson 20
Wt. Winner (School) Decision Type Loser (School) Bout Score (Running Score VMI-DC)
125: Dalton Henderson (VMI) WBF Philip Elias (DC) 2:13 (6-0)
133: Anthony Elias (DC) DEC Michael Flora (VMI) 9-2 (6-3)
141: Emmitt Kelly (VMI) MAJ DEC James McCord (DC) 9-1 (10-3)
149: Kevin Birmingham (DC) SV-1 Shabaka Johns (VMI) 9-7 (10-6)
157: Ted Gottwald (VMI) DEC Nick Pappayliou (DC) 4-3 (13-6)
165: Mark Darr (VMI) MAJ DEC Patrick Devlin (DC) 19-8 (17-6)
174: Nathaniel Powers (DC) WBF Derek Thurman (VMI) 1:56 (17-12)
184: Ian Solcz (DC) SV-1 Hardy Hendren (VMI) 3-1 (17-15)
197: Scott Patrick (DC) TECH FALL Andrew Embree (VMI) 22-4 (7:00) (17-20)
285: Juan Adams (VMI) MAJ DEC Ed Isola (DC) 14-2 (21-20)