South Plainfield's Scott Delvecchio is ranked No. 7 nationally at 132 (Photo/Rob Preston)
The Virginia Duals are a long-standing, historic event in the context of amateur wrestling. It was the event to introduce the team advancement concept to wrestling, the fore-runner to the NWCA National Duals in college and the many state associations that have state dual meet tournament champions. The first event in Hampton, Va., occurred all the way back in 1981 with just a National College division.
High school teams were first included in the event in 1995 with the National High School Division, champion in that first year was Parkersburg South, W. Va. Two additional divisions were added for high school competition the next year -- an American High School Division that serves as a second tier with a mix of national, regional, and local teams; while the Black and Blue High School Division is a third tier with essentially a "local" field.
Over the prior eighteen years, the National Division has featured many elite programs winning the title including the following teams in the last four events: Christiansburg, Va., St. Mark's, Del., Wyoming Seminary, Pa., and Canon McMillan, Pa. Other powers of their time to win titles were Northampton, Pa., Nazareth, Pa., and Great Bridge, Va.
This year's event is likely to feature a first-time champion, as the following three Fab 50 teams anchor the National High School Division field: No. 26 South Plainfield, N.J., No. 32 McDonogh, Md., and No. 47 Colonial Forge, Va. These three teams are also the top seeds in the bracket. Other top eight seeds include Christiansburg, Va., Camden Catholic, N.J., Osceola, Fla., Timber Creek, N.J., and Nazareth, Pa.
Championship first round matches start on Friday at 9 a.m. ET in the upper bracket and continue with lower bracket matches at 11 a.m. Quarterfinals and consolation first round matches will follow at 1 p.m. (upper bracket) and 3 p.m. (lower bracket). Wrestling will then continue on Saturday at 8 a.m. with a pair of matches involving squads that went 0-2, then at 10 a.m. with the consolation second round. The championship finals will kick-off at 2:00 p.m., two rounds of consolation at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., before the first and third place matches at 8:30 p.m.
The following wrestlers in the National H.S. Division are nationally ranked:
106: No. 16 Ariel Dominguez (Osceola, Fla.)
120: No. 9 Coy Ozias (Christiansburg, Va.)
126: No. 1 Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Va.), No. 14 Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield, N.J.)
132: No. 7 Scott Delvecchio (South Plainfield, N.J.), No. 9 Dennis Gustafson (Forest Park, Va.)
138: No. 2 Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.)
145: No. 6 T.J. Miller (Camden Catholic, N.J.), No. 9 Fox Baldwin (Osceola, Fla.), No. 11 Troy Heilmann (South Plainfield, N.J.), No. 14 Jack Clark (McDonogh, Md.)
152: No. 12 Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic, N.J.)
160: No. 8 Myles Martin (McDonogh, Md.)
170: No. 3 Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Va.)
285: No. 6 Aaron Bradley (Nazareth, Pa.)
As far as the dual meet aspect of the event, South Plainfield is the strong favorite to clear the top half of the bracket and make a maiden appearance in the final after finishing third in two of the last three years. They draw Cave Spring, Va., in the first round before a date against either Ocean Lakes, Va., or Nazareth, Pa., in the quarterfinal. The Tigers should draw Camden Catholic, N.J., or Christiansburg, Va., in the semifinal -- neither of whom are realistic threats to poach an upset. Therefore, from an individual matchup perspective, one should hope for Camden Catholic to advance so fans get a Heilmann vs. Miller showdown that could be coming in the state semifinals (or final).
The lower half of the draw is by all measures more competitive. McDonogh is the second seed and should upend Smithfield, Va. in the opening round and see either Forest Park, Va. or Timber Creek, N.J. in the second round. That seven/ten dual should be competitive, but neither team is realistically equipped to challenge McDonogh; therefore, the best individual matchup looms if Timber Creek wins: Jack Clark facing three-time state placer Brandon Keller at 145.
In that third quarter, it should end up in a very interesting battle between Colonial Forge, Va., and Osceola, Fla., on Friday afternoon: presuming each clears their first round opposition, the Eagles against New Kent, Va., and the Kowboys against Arvada West, Colo. That is a dual meet which could go either way as Osceola has more guaranteed wins, but Colonial Forge has more balance in the lineup.
Looking to the end game, one senses that a South Plainfield against McDonogh final looms, which would be a rematch of the third-place match from last year's tournament. South Plainfield won that match; however, it was close, and could have swung the other way if Jack Clark was not upset by Corey Stasenko. The easiest prediction to make is that South Plainfield wins; however, any one of four teams has a legit shot.