[caption id="attachment_562" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="(Brittany Dant / Cluster Staff) Mercer Wrestling ultimately fell to Marian Military Institute, but had a strong showing at the Duals in Dalton, Georgia."]
Mercer slipped through the first round of the championships on a bye but knew that their third round match against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would be the toughest.
“They were a good team,” said Andres. “We needed to wrestle our best.”
The Bears were able to beat the number-eight-seeded MIT 33 to 23 in their first match of the tournament. While the first two individual matches went to the Engineers, the Bears went on a winning streak to win six of their next eight individual matches and boosting their team score to 33.
There was question as to whether Mercer could pull it out in the middle of the match but Andres kept a cool head about the situation. The Bears watched as MIT’s head coach was given a technical violation for unsportsmanlike conduct, losing one team point for MIT.
“Their coach just gave up one team point and he possibly just lost the match for his team,” said junior Kyle Eastis. “The best they could hope to do is tie us at 30 but they would have had to win every match after that.”
The Engineers won only one of their last individual matches, leaving Mercer to face the 2010 National Champions, Marion Military Institute, in round four Saturday morning. Nick Wright started off the round strong for the Bears, pinning his opponent less than two minutes into the first period. Derek Wojcik and Charlie Farr both fought hard for their victories in their individual matches. Wojcik won his match by one point and Farr won five to two. A forfeit to Albert Sykes in the 285-pound weight class boosted the Bears' team score to 18. However, MMI would go on to win the match 35 to 18.
“Marion was the first team dual that we have lost this season,” Eastis said. “Our streak was broken by the national champions,” he added.
The loss against MMI kept Mercer out of the top five teams in the nation but the Bears were not distracted by the loss. They would wrestle 18th-seeded University of Cincinnati in the sixth round.
Eastis started off the match with a win for Mercer and Wesley Adams and Arturo Holmes followed suit, both pinning their opponents in the first period. Wojcik also won his match, which helped Mercer beat Cincinnati 35 to 21 and advance to round seven of the tournament.
After a brief break, Mercer took on the 11th-seeded Georgia Southern wrestling team. The Bears stayed strong in their match up against Southern with Wright and Adams again winning the first two matches by pinning their opponents early on. Holmes had a big win for Mercer with a score of 20 to five, making his match a major decision. The Bears won three out of the seven remaining individual matches which gave them the lead over Southern. The Bears finished the seventh round with a 35-to-21 victory over Southern and advanced to the finals round of the tournament.
Mercer faced a familiar opponent in the finals round where they again came up against MIT. Although the Bears had won against MIT the night before, Andres made sure that his team did not get cocky going into the finals.
“We have a chance to face MIT here again,” Andres said. “I know some of our boys want a rematch,” he added prior to the match.
Holmes won his individual match by a final score of 25 to 11 with over six takedowns, making it the highest scoring individual match for Mercer in the last round.
Michael Green and Hunter Allen both won their matches by forfeit while Wojcik pinned his opponent for another win for the Bears. Michael Myers also helped boost the Bears’ overall team score with his individual match. Myers’ win left Mercer up 28 to 14 over MIT. Approaching the last two matches of the round Mercer had a comfortable 10-point lead over MIT.
“At this point we had won,” Andres said. “Even if Farr gets pinned it will only boost MIT up to 24 points,” the head coach added.
Farr was not pinned in his individual match but went on to pin his opponent for another win for Mercer. The finals round concluded with a forfeit for MIT in the heavyweight division, leaving Bert Sykes the win.
Mercer was able to beat MIT by 12 more team points in round three, making the final score 40 to 18.
Mercer was able to finish the National Duals ninth out of the 20 schools that made it to the prestigious tournament, placing them within the top 10 wrestling teams in the nation.