BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb came roaring back from a 20-3 deficit, but fell just short in a 23-22 loss to Duke Wednesday night in Paul Porter Arena.
The teams started at 197 pounds on Tuesday, and Gardner-Webb (5-7) went with veteran Kyle Ash in a surprise move against the Blue Devils' Luke Farinaro.
Ash got a takedown in the first period for an early lead, but Farinaro pulled off a pair of escapes – late in the first and again early in the second – to tie the score. Ash took a 3-2 lead himself with an escape, and sealed the win with a late takedown in the third to pull off a 5-3 decision.
The Blue Devils (4-6) countered with one of the nation's best at 285 pounds, however, as 4th-ranked heavyweight Jacob Kasper took the mat against 2016 NCAA qualifier Boyce Cornwell. Kasper went to work quickly, getting a takedown and a four-point near fall in the early going – and dominated the mat for a 17-0 tech fall (4:54) victory.
Duke picked up a 7-3 decision at 125 pounds and took control of the match with back-to-back pins at 133 and 141 pounds. Cole Baumgartner put Philip Anderson to the mat in 4:08 to push the Blue Devils' team lead to 14-3 and Zach Finesilver pinned Dallas Roemer in 4:12 to make the score 20-3.
Gardner-Webb got a key win at 149 pounds, as Chris Vassar dominated from start-to-finish in a 12-0 major decision victory. Vassar held a riding time advantage of 5:25 in the win over Xaviel Ramos and had a pair of near falls to build an early lead.
Jake Faust picked up a key win for Duke at 157 pounds, outlasting Ryan Mosley in a tough 2-0 decision. That gave the Blue Devils a 23-7 lead, and the visitors would need each of those points as Gardner-Webb posted a furious rally.
Tyler Marinelli got off to an 11-0 lead at 165 pounds, and went on the offensive early in the second period again – pancaking Garrett Neff for a pin in 3:23 to ignite the crowd in Paul Porter Arena.
Gardner-Webb needed bonus points in its next match as well, and Austin Trott delivered. The Kingsland, Ga., senior jumped out to an 8-0 lead on 17th-ranked Connor Bass, then pinned Bass early in the second period (3:11) to trim Duke's lead to 23-19 with one match remaining.
Needing a major decision to tie, Gardner-Webb sent one of its best to the mat at 184 pounds. Hunter Gamble took an early lead, but could not get a rally going in the third period for bonus points. Gamble took a 3-1 decision, but Duke held on for the 23-22 team victory.
It marked the second-straight season the two teams wrestled to a one-point margin, with Gardner-Webb taking a 19-18 win in Durham last February.
The Runnin' Bulldogs will host SoCon foe Chattanooga on Friday night, with the match set to begin at 7:00 pm in Paul Porter Arena (Feb. 3). The match will stream live on The Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com).
Final Team Score: Duke 23, Gardner-Webb 22
197: Kyle Ash (Gardner-Webb) over Luke Farinaro (Duke) (Dec 5-3)
285: #4 Jacob Kasper (Duke) over Boyce Cornwell (Gardner-Webb) (TF 17-0 4:54)
125: Thayer Atkins (Duke) over Landon LoAlbo (Gardner-Webb) (Dec 7-3)
133: Cole Baumgartner (Duke) over Philip Anderson (Gardner-Webb) (Fall 4:08)
141: Zach Finesilver (Duke) over Dallas Roemer (Gardner-Webb) (Fall 4:12)
149: Christopher Vassar (Gardner-Webb) over Xaviel Ramos (Duke) (MD 12-0)
157: Jake Faust (Duke) over Ryan Mosley (Gardner-Webb) (Dec 2-0)
165: Tyler Marinelli (Gardner-Webb) over Garrett Neff (Duke) (Fall 3:23)
174: Austin Trott (Gardner-Webb) over #17 Connor Bass (Duke) (Fall 3:11)
184: Hunter Gamble (Gardner-Webb) over Alec Schenk (Duke) (Dec 3-1)
TEAM RECORDS: Duke (4-6); Gardner-Webb (5-7)