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The First Upset of the 2023-2024 NCAA Season

He Ran Out Of A Military Jet, He Faced A Nationally Ranked Opponent, He Completed A Come From Behind Upset Victory In His First NCAA Match And Convinced Himself It Was Just Another Wednesday. The Battle At Liberty Was Good To Campbell’s Chris Earnest

In his first collegiate dual, Campbell University’s Chris Earnest made good on his opportunity and almost stole the spotlight of the Battle At Liberty.

The opening seconds of the Battle At Liberty went exactly as expected, with the unranked Campbell freshman being on the wrong end of college wrestling’s first three-point takedown. To the surprise of few, the 25th ranked 157-pounder from Army, Nate Lukez, was appearing to grind out a hard-fought match and add three to the team score straight out of the gate.

Earnest had several “promising” moments in the first, but closed out the first period down 6-2 with reason to believe he’d be a solid starter with room to improve.

But it was an unwavering confidence and a cool head about a recent NCAA rule change that kept Earnest calm in the pocket in the second period.

“Well, from the start of the year, as soon as we knew that three-point takedown was going to be in effect, we talked about it as a team,” Earnest said. “The scores are going to be a lot higher than what you’re expecting. You’ve got to wrestle through that. Even if the scores are 14-0, you can still catch a guy and pin him. As one of my coaches in middle school or youth used to tell me, you can always pin a guy you can’t beat. That’s kind of stuck with me for a while now.”

The second period ended 6-2, as well, but with a full second period of riding time under his belt, Earnest found himself a takedown away from tying it up. The period had Earnest down four points and yet still more confident than when the match was 0-0. The moral victory is nice, but Earnest didn’t take the mat hoping to “make it close.” He was there to win.

“I knew I had what it takes on top to ride him out,” Earnest said. “That never faltered, as you saw Scotti [Sentes, Campbell Head Coach] had me take top. I never really had any doubts throughout the entire match, even being down four points. It’s only a takedown and a little turn.”

With less than a minute remaining, Earnest secured a takedown bringing the score to 6-5. With ride time secured, the freshman just opened up his career with a trip to overtime with a nationally-ranked wrestler.

14 seconds into sudden victory, Earnest slammed Lukez to the mat and completed the come from behind upset.

“I’m going to be honest, that was just like an exhale of relief, like, ‘dang, first one out of the way.’” Earnest laughed. “I was just relieved to get that first big college wrestling match out of the way, especially with it being as big of an event as it was. I was just really glad to see the way I competed and the way I showed up.”

Earnest was the subject of social media praise for his performance, including NCAA Wrestling’s official account tweeting about him. As tempting as it would be for the common man to get caught up in the allure of it all, Earnest did what any D-1 wrestler would do and suppressed the satisfaction and went straight back to the drawing board.

“It’s a big win, but obviously you’ve got to continue to compete at that high of a level,” Earnest said. “Beating a nationally-ranked guy, you can’t just make it a fluke. You got to come out and keep firing out. You have to use this as motivation to do better than what you were.”

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