DURHAM, N.C.—Duke redshirt senior Jacob Kasper put his Navy opponent on his back with 30 seconds left in the final period of the final match of the day to lead the Duke wrestling team to a heart-stopping victory over Navy in Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils and Midshipmen finished tied 22-22, but Duke’s two falls were the difference in the criteria tiebreak.
In nearly identical fashion to the 2017 match in Annapolis, the dual came down to Kasper at heavyweight and Duke emerged victorious this time on its home mat. Both Kasper and senior Thayer Atkins earned falls and Navy managed just one, giving the Blue Devils the win on criteria B. It was the first win for Duke over Navy since 1928.
“We knew it was going to be a tight match and they got us last year,” said head coach Glen Lanham. “Our guys wrestled tough, tough enough to win that one. In some spots we have to make some improvements, but overall I’m satisfied because to lose how we did to them last year and to come back and win in the same fashion is big for the program.”
Kasper walked out onto the mat determined to get the fall. The nation’s fifth-ranked heavyweight scored early and started working immediately to turn Austin Faunce on his back. The Navy senior battled tough, knowing he couldn’t give up the pin, as the pair headed into the final two minutes of wrestling.
Starting in the neutral position, Kasper quickly scored the takedown and nearfall points and with time ticking away and the Blue Devils fans on the edge of their seats, Kasper exerted his will on Faunce and got the fall and the Duke team victory.
“I don’t know if [Kasper] saw the worry on my face, but he told me ‘relax Coach, I’m going to get the fall’,” Lanham said. “I believe it, but seeing it is believing it. Everybody is going to give him their best match and he wrestled within his ability and got the fall for us. He’s a true leader for us.”
The Blue Devils and Midshipmen both posted five wins apiece in the dual as Duke grabbed wins at 125, 133, 157, 174 and 285. The team score see-sawed with the Blue Devils getting out of the gates quick 9-0 and Navy responding with three straight wins for a 10-9 advantage.
Mitch Finesilver, ranked 11th nationally, put Duke up 13-10 at the intermission with a crucial major decision over Zack Davis. It was his eighth major decision of the year and win No. 19 for the redshirt junior.
Coming out of the break, Navy won three of the next four bouts for its largest lead of the afternoon 22-16 to set up the thrilling finish by Kasper.
Atkins started the dual strong for the Blue Devils, pinning Aslan Kilic in the third period to give Duke the 6-0 lead. Trailing 2-0 to start the third, Navy’s Kilic escaped to cut the lead in half, but Atkins went right after the Midshipman rookie and put him on his back for the fall. It was his first pin of the year and pushed his overall record to 9-10 on the year.
Rookie Josh Finesilver tacked on three more points for the Blue Devils with a gutsy performance at 133 pounds. Josh and Cody Trybus were knotted 2-2 after five minutes of wrestling, but it was Josh’s two minutes of riding time that proved to be the difference in the end. Trybus was aggressive in the third, scoring a takedown, but Josh was able to hold him off in the final 30 seconds for his 17th win of the year.
The Midshipmen registered consecutive technical falls at 141 and 149 to grab their first lead of the afternoon, 10-9, before Mitch swung momentum back in Duke’s favor with a major decision at 157.
Matt used strong hand fighting and defense in the final minute to garner his 17th win of the year and second of the weekend. His takedown late in the second period proved to be the different after AJ Alford was unable to score in the third stanza.
The Blue Devils hit the road next to take on No. 10 Virginia Tech. The match is Jan. 27 with a 1 p.m., start in Blacksburg.
Duke 22, Navy 22 – Duke wins on Criteria B*
125 – Thayer Atkins (Duke) fall Aslan Kilic (Navy), 5:37 [Duke 6, Navy 0]
133 – Josh Finesilver (Duke) decision Cody Trybus (Navy), 5-4 [Duke 9, Navy 0]
141 – No. 19 Nicholas Gil (Navy) tech fall Jeremiah Reitz (Duke), 20-5 [Duke 9, Navy 5]
149 – Corey Wilding (Navy) tech fall Brandon Leynaud (Duke), 15-0 [Duke 9, Navy 10]
157 – No. 11 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) major dec. Zack Davis (Navy), 17-6 [Duke 13, Navy 10]
165 – No. 20 Drew Daniels (Navy) decision Zach Finesilver (Duke), 3-2 [Duke 13, Navy 13]
174 – Matt Finesilver (Duke) decision AJ Alford (Navy), 3-2 [Duke 16, Navy 13]
184 – No. 17 Michael Coleman (Navy) fall Kaden Russell (Duke), 1:56 [Navy 19, Duke 16]
197 – Steban Cervantes [Navy] decision Alec Schenk (Duke), 9-7 [Navy 22, Duke 16]
285 – No. 5 Jacob Kasper (Duke) fall Austin Faunce (Navy), 5:30 [Duke 22, Navy 22]
Duke wins on criteria B – Duke falls 2, Navy falls 1