Micky Phillippi (left) and Korbin Myers in the 2021 ACC finals (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
The Hokies head north to take on the Panthers in their first ACC dual of the season. The teams agreed to push the dual from Friday to Sunday to allow additional time for some VT wrestlers to return to the lineup, so both teams are as close to full strength as possible. Both teams should be ready to scrap with the extra rest and we have some great matchups to look forward to in this one. To start us off, Latona-Curry will give us a peek into whether Latona is back at his top form or whether the stingy defense of Curry will be too much. Myers-Phillippi will be a battle. Brady-Cleary is a low-key great matchup and so is Bolen-Harvey. The Hokies are fired up and ready to go after last week and the Panthers are coming off two straight dual wins--an upset of then #6 Arizona State and a decisive victory over Virginia last week. It should be a fun Sunday afternoon matinee to showcase the ACC.
125: #21 Sam Latona vs. #31 Gage Curry
After a slow start to the season, Latona has seemed to find his groove and has looked much stronger in his past two outings. The returning All-American is 6-6 on the season, but all of his losses are to ranked wrestlers, including the current 3, 4, 10, 13, 14 ranked wrestlers. He doesn't have any â€œbad losses,â€ but definitely didn't seem to be the best version of himself in the opening half of the season. Curry has looked solid since transferring from American and is 11-6 on the year. He picked up a conference win last week over Patrick McCormick from UVA.
133: #5 Korbin Myers vs. #7 Micky Phillippi
This will be the biggest match of the dual and it will be a fun one. Myers comes in at 11-1 with his only loss to Michael McGee of Arizona State. He has wrestled incredibly well all season and has been a critical part of the Hokie lineup. Phillippi is 10-3 with losses to McGee, Lucas Byrd and Malyke Hines and is coming off a tech fall victory over UVA last week. Myers and Phillippi have met five times in their careers, with Phillippi holding the 3-2 advantage, but Myers holds the last victory with a 3-1 win to take the ACC title last year. All of their matches have been close--the biggest win was a 2 point difference--and I don't expect this one to be any different.
141: Collin Gerardi vs. #18 Cole Matthews
Gerardi has had a solid season holding down the 141 spot and enters with an 8-4 record. Matthews has been on a hot streak and has won 6 straight-including 4 falls and a major decision against UVA last week. Gerardi can be very tough to score on, so we'll see if Matthews can break through to continue the run he has been on.
149: Sam Hillegas vs Luke Kemerer
Sam Hillegas will get the start this week against Luke Kemerer (possibly Dan Mancini) for the Panthers. Hillegas was out most of the beginning of the season with an injury but is 4-2 since returning. Kemerer dropped a 7-2 decision to Jarod Verkleeren last week in the UVA dual.
157: #23 Connor Brady vs. #21 Elijah Cleary
This could be a fun one--both of these guys are great defensive wrestlers, but can put on an offensive show. Brady is 11-2 on the season with his losses to Quincy Monday and Jacori Teemer. He has looked great all season and has provided some big points for the Hokies. Cleary has had an impressive season since transferring from Ohio State; he is 9-4 on the year and won a decision victory over Jon Errico from UVA.
165: Clayton Ulrey vs. #14 Jake Wentzel
Ulrey has been a fighter all year and has shown improvement every time out and is on a seven-match win streak. Wentzel has gotten everyone's best shot as a returning NCAA finalist and has dropped a few close decisions but still comes in with a solid 10-4 record and won a major decision over Jake Keating last week.
174: #3 Mekhi Lewis vs. James Lledo
Mekhi has looked phenomenal at 174. He has looked strong and healthy at the higher weight and has been wrestling like a madman. He is 13-0, with 8 wins getting bonus points for the Hokies. Lledo dropped from 184 and has wrestled well at the lower weight; he is 4-2 at 174 and lost by major decision to Justin Phillips of UVA last week.
184: #12 Hunter Bolen vs. #32 Gregg Harvey
Bolen is back for his first match since the Southern Scuffle and will get a test in Gregg Harvey, who seemingly has an unending gas tank. Bolen is 16-2 on the year, while Harvey comes in at 6-4. Harvey will be a great test for Bolen to make his return and it should be a good gauge of where he is coming into ACC duals. Bolen holds a 2-0 edge in head-to-head matches with Harvey.
197: #33 Dakota Howard vs. #8 Nino Bonaccorsi
Dakota Howard is one of the most fun wrestlers to watch in the country. He gives everything he has in every match and I don't expect that to be any different against the returning NCAA finalist in Bonaccorsi. Howard is 11-5 on the year with 8 bonus point wins. Bonaccorsi comes in at 9-2 with his only losses to Greg Bulsak and Patrick Brucki.
285: #14 Nathan Traxler vs. Jake Slinger
Traxler has been nearly flawless since stepping onto the mat for the Hokies. He is 13-1 since his transfer from Stanford, with his lone loss a 3-2 decision to #13 Tate Orndorff. He is entering this dual on a nine-match win streak to face Slinger, who is coming off an upset win over #32 Quinn Miller from UVA. Slinger has come up huge for the Panthers in several duals this year and will be looking for his second upset win in ACC competition.