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even with strong performances from barket, wimmer, duke wrestling struggles in keystone classic

duke wrestling is just 2-4 through its first six meets.
duke wrestling is just 2-4 through its first six meets.

duke had a tournament to forget at the 2023 keystone classic in philadelphia, finishing ninth overall out of the 10 teams competing. after earning its first two wins of the season against cleveland state and kent state, the team struggled to replicate last week’s strong showing during sunday’s tournament. despite fielding 15 wrestlers across 10 different weight classes, only three blue devils won their opening-round matchups, while just two placed in the top five of their respective weight classes. 

“we’ve just gotta start putting complete matches together…” head coach glen lanham lamented after the tournament, repeatedly emphasizing the need to stay consistent throughout a match. “if we can do that, we can have a more successful day.”

“we just have to keep working so we can put everything together,” said lanham.

duke’s youth and inexperience had a major impact sunday. freshmen logan fite, sean o’donnell and david hussey all made their collegiate debuts in philadelphia to very limited success. in fact, none of the seven rookie blue devils competing won even a single match, struggling mightily against the experienced and talented wrestlers of established programs like penn and virginia tech. 

“we just gotta be patient with them, coach them up right and be able to see little improvements,” lanham said of his freshmen. “sometimes it’s frustrating because the big picture is the [losses] and the [wins].”

seniors jack wimmer (174 lbs) and logan agin (125 lbs) were one of the few bright spots for duke (2-4) on an otherwise torrid day. wimmer was particularly impressive, earning a sixth-place finish in his weight class. the roxbury pa., native dominated on his way to the championship semifinal, the only blue devil to reach that stage of the tournament. meanwhile, agin responded to an early loss with four consecutive victories, including two major decisions which earned him a fifth-place final position. 

sophomore standout connor barket (285 lbs) also wrestled well in the keystone classic, winning four late matches to earn a fifth-place finish in the heavyweight division.  having been given the unenviable task of replacing duke wrestling phenom and wwe hopeful jonah neisenbaum, barket has strung together multiple solid performances, securing his spot as one of duke’s most consistent stars. lanham did not hold back in his praise of the west lafayette, ind., native. 

“he’s starting to trust the coaching and trust his training,” said lanham of barket. “that’s the best thing that he’s doing. he did some things that we’ve been working on throughout the week, starting by getting some takedowns. you can see it’s starting to click and he’s starting to put it together. it’s a process. if you’re trying to come in and be an ncaa champion and an all-american, you lose focus. the focus is to get better every day, and that’s what we want these guys to do.” 

the blue devils get a few weeks off before they head to davidson dec. 8. 

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