LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The No. 14 ranked Fort Hays State wrestling team began the New Year with a trip to the National Duals (Jan. 4-5) in Louisville, Ky. Fort Hays State faced off with No. 4 ranked Pitt-Johnstown in the first round, falling to the Mountain Cats by a score of 22-16. The Tigers then battled No. 18 ranked Indianapolis in the first round of the consolation side, before falling to the Greyhounds by a score of 21-13. FHSU ended their day with a 33-7 rout over West Liberty University.

First Round FHSU vs Pitt-Johnstown Exhibition Hall Mountain Cats 22, Tigers 16

The Tigers began their day with a dual against the No. 4 ranked Mountain Cats. In the first match of the day, Brendan Howard defeated Broderick Green with a 13-3 major decision to give the Mountain Cats the early advantage. Riley Tubbs (133 pounds) put the Tigers on the board in the second bout of the day with a 4-2 decision over Matthew Siszka.

In a battle of nationally ranked wrestlers, No. 2 Brandon Ball and No. 3 Joey Alessandro faced off in the 141-pound weight class bout. Ball picked up a takedown in the first period to take a quick 2-0 lead. In the second frame, Ball started on bottom and reversed his way to the top to grab a 4-0 lead over Alessandro after two periods. Alessandro made things interesting with a takedown of his own in the third round to cut the lead in half, 4-2. However, Ball held off Alessandro to remain undefeated on the year and win by a narrow margin with a 4-3 decision. The Tigers led 6-4 after three bouts.

Redshirt-senior Ryne Cokeley returned to the Tiger lineup with a matchup against the top-ranked wrestler in DII in the 149-pound bout, Chris Eddins Jr. Eddins picked up a takedown early on and Cokeley countered with a reversal to knot the bout at 2 points each. From there on, Eddins took the advantage with a reversal and never looked back in a 17-2 technical fall over Cokeley. No. 4 Efe Osaghae defeated Corey Falleroni in the 157-pound bout by decision (6-2). At the halfway point in the match, the Tigers and Mountain Cats were all knotted up 9-9.

The 165-pound bout featured Aryus Jones and No. 9 Devin Austin. Jones fell behind early as Austin picked up a takedown, but Jones reversed out of it to tie the match momentarily before Austin escaped the grip of Jones to lead 3-2 after the first period. Jones fought back before losing the momentum in the third frame after Austin grabbed a takedown and a four-point near fall, before Jones earned a ride time point, limiting the damage to a 10-4 decision defeat. Pitt-Johnstown took back the lead for good with four bouts remaining in the dual.

Nick Meck battled with Steven Edwards tough until dropping the bout to Edwards via fall in the third period (5:08). Mountain Cats' No. 7 Brock Biddle was too much for senior Micquille Robinson as he lost the bout by major decision (16-4). Jordan Davis pulled out a narrow 3-2 decision but it was too late as the Tigers could not reach the Mountain Cats. AJ Cooper helped shrink the gap in the dual score with a commanding 19-8 major decision, defeating Tyler Oliver in the process.

Consolation First Round FHSU vs Indianapolis Freedom Hall Greyhounds 21, Tigers 13

The Tigers faced the No. 18 Greyhounds of Indianapolis in the first round of the consolation side of the National Duals. In the first match of the dual, Broderick Green fell to DJ Smith by decision (8-5). Riley Tubbs (133 pounds) took a 3-0 lead into the middle of the second period before Ana Abduljelil ran off with an 11-4 decision. Second-ranked Brandon Ball put the Tigers on the board with a quiet 3-0 decision in the 141-pound weight class bout, leaving the Tigers with a 6-3 deficit after the first three bouts of the dual.

In the 149-pound weight class, Jonathan Ball battled No. 9 ranked Kyle Barkovich into overtime knotted at 1-1 before falling to Barkovich by sudden victory (3-1). No. 4 ranked Efe Osaghae then picked up a quiet 3-1 decision over Heath Lange in the 157-pound weight class bout. Halfway through the dual, the Tigers inched a little closer and trailed the Greyhounds by a score of 9-6.

Aryus Jones (165 pounds) was pinned in the first period by Sheldon Struble, putting the Tigers out of reach for good the rest of the way. In the 174-pound weight class, Marty Verhaeghe put the Tigers hopes within reason with a solid 9-6 decision over Zach Fry. Senior Micquille Robinson then added more confidence in the Tigers with a commanding 14-3 major decision over Jack Michel in the 184-pound weight class bout. At 197 pounds, Jordan Davis battled Brian Wagner closely until the final 30 seconds when Wagner pulled away with a takedown and the 6-4 decision. In the final bout the dual, AJ Cooper held his own against No. 3 ranked Dylan Faulkenberg in the first two periods before falling 5-3 in the decision.

FHSU vs West Liberty Tigers 33, Hilltoppers 7

In the final dual of the evening, Fort Hays State topped West Liberty in dominating fashion with a 33-7 rout of the Hilltoppers. In the 125-pound weight class, Broderick Green dropped the bout to Corey Secrist by decision (6-1). West Liberty grabbed the opening three points in the process. The Tigers won the next seven matches to put the Hilltoppers out for good. Conrad Cole (133 pounds) pinned Steven Slack in 2:43, second-ranked Brandon Ball (141 pounds) used a 7-0 decision to defeat De'Andre Reed and Anthony Scantlin (149 pounds) picked up a 9-2 decision over Miles Mazik.

No. 4 ranked Efe Osaghae also earned a decision with an 8-2 victory over Josh Cornell in the 157-pound weight class. Aryus Jones (165 pounds) finished his day with a fall over Owen Zeiders in 4:26 to put the Tigers up 21-3 after six bouts. At 174 pounds, Marty Verhaeghe used a commanding 16-3 major decision to defeat Chance Morgan. Then, Micquille Robinson picked up a 10-2 decision over Isaiah Myers in the 184-pound weight class. Jordan Davis dropped his bout to Logan Kemp by major decision (14-2) at 197 pounds. Lastly, in the final bout of the dual, A.J. Cooper shutout Ronnie D'Amico with a 5-0 decision to round out the onslaught over the Hilltoppers.

The Black & Gold are back in action next weekend as they host the Lindenwood Lions on Friday (Jan. 11) before hosting the Kansas Cup on Sunday (Jan. 13). The dual against the Lions is slated to begin at 7 p.m., while the Kansas Cup is set to commence at 9 a.m.