By Melissa McKeown
In its first home action of the season, the Air Force wrestling team split a pair of non-conference duels Dec. 11 in Clune Arena.
After dropping a 35-3 contest to Ohio, the Falcons scored a 33-13 victory over Colorado School of Mines.
Against Ohio, Air Force (1-1) got out to a solid start at 125 pounds, as junior Andrew Zwirlein (Nashotah, Wis.) put the Falcons on the board with a 10-5 decision over Kyle Ciccarello. While the score was tied, 3-3, at the end of the first period, Zwirlein controlled the action in the final two periods, accumulating nearly three and a half minutes of riding time throughout the match.
Unfortunately, the Falcons’ first win against the Bobcats was also their last, as undefeated Ohio (6-0) captured victories in the final nine bouts, including a pair of falls and a technical fall.
The story was different as Air Force took on in-state rival Colorado School of Mines (0-2). The Falcons opened the match with a forfeit victory to take a six-point lead, but the Orediggers responded with a fall in the 133-pound bout to tie the team score at 6-6. Air Force regained the lead when 141-pounder Derek Gillespie (Chesapeake, Va.) recorded a fall over Dylan Lewis as time expired in the first period, but CSM won the next two bouts, scoring a major decision and a decision to take a 13-12 advantage.
Junior Joseph Stafford (Loomis, Calif.), in his first action of the day, came up big for Air Force in the 165-pound bout, pinning Mines’ Jacob Guynes in a time of 4:54. His victory swung the momentum back in the Falcons’ direction, as Air Force won each of its last five bouts.
Senior Tyler French (Malta, Mont.) controlled the tempo at 174 pounds, racking up 3:44 of riding time in an 11-4 decision over Ryan Swanson. James Ciccone (Sr., Mentor, Ohio), wrestling at 184 pounds, added yet another fall for the Falcons, pinning Brandon Sheldon with 17 seconds remaining in the second period.
The 197-pound bout between Air Force’s Neil Delaney (Jr., Grand Rapids, Mich.) and CSM’s Brennen Knerr was tightly contested, tied at 1-1 in the final minute of the final period. However, Delaney scored the first takedown of the match with 23 seconds remaining to capture a 3-1 decision.
Meanwhile, the final match of the contest was also a close battle. Senior Stephen Larson (Lakeville, Minn.) was tied with Bryan Stansbury, 4-4, in the last minute of action, with each wrestler scoring a takedown and a pair of escapes in the bout. However, a second stalling call on Stansbury with 38 seconds remaining gave Larson what proved to be the deciding point in the 5-4 decision, as the Falcons captured the 33-13 team victory.
Air Force returns to action today when they travel to Corvallis, Ore., to take on 24th-ranked Oregon State along with Southern Oregon.