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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    #8 Virginia Tech at #4 NC State Preview

    Trent Hidlay (left) and Hunter Bolen (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    It's finally happening! It will be 380 days since the last dual meeting between the Wolfpack and Hokies when they hit the mat Sunday evening. 380 days since Sam Latona shook Cassell Coliseum, with a last-second takedown and nearfall of Jakob Camacho, to give the Hokies the dual win on tiebreaker criteria. The teams split the dual championship and individual championship last season, with the Wolfpack bringing home the ACC trophy at the tournament. Though the lineups will look significantly different than last season--the competitive fire between the teams and their respective fanbases is as strong as ever. Only two matches on Sunday will be a repeat of last year's dual--Latona beat Camacho by decision and Hunter Bolen edged out a 2-1 victory over Trent Hidlay. While this match will be contested as a non-conference dual, there are certainly conference bragging rights on the line. The eyes of ACC nation and wrestling fans across the country will be on Raleigh Sunday night for this top-10 dual.

    125: #20 Sam Latona vs #14 Jakob Camacho

    Latona holds a 3-0 head-to-head advantage over Camacho--the last match was a 2-1 win in TB1 for Latona in the ACC finals. Latona went on to earn All-American honors, finishing 6th last year. He got off to a sluggish start this season, but has looked phenomenal since the calendar turned to 2022; he has won six straight entering this dual and is 4-0 in the ACC. Camacho dropped a heartbreaker in the bloodround at the NCAA tournament last year to Killian Cardinale, but has put together a great season and enters this match at 14-2 with his losses to Spencer Lee and Noah Surtin. Both of these guys have been putting up great offensive numbers and are coming in with a lot of momentum. This match is very much a toss-up, but I lean toward Latona to move it to 4-0.

    133: #5 Korbin Myers vs. #14 Kai Orine

    Myers earned All-American honors last year for the Hokies and this season has been the picture of consistency. He is 15-1 on the year with his lone loss to #4 Michael McGee in a one-point match. Orine has had an impressive season in his first year starting for the Wolfpack. He is coming into this dual at 13-3, but has dropped two tough back-to-back matches; 4-1 to Micky Phillippi and 4-2 in sudden victory to Joe Heilmann. Orine has a great pace and attacks very well. He has five tech falls and two major decisions on the year. He has also shown strong defense, especially for a more inexperienced wrestler. He held the super high-paced Austin Desanto to a major decision which was huge for the team battle against Iowa. Orine has shown he can hang with anyone in the weight, but I think Myers' experience and maturity give him the edge.

    141: #22 Collin Gerardi vs. #24 Ryan Jack

    This match could be critical to determining the dual and it pairs up two very patient wrestlers who make it difficult for opponents to score. Jack is 13-6 on the year and 2-2 in the ACC. He has dropped his last two matches, but they were great bouts against very tough competition. He lost to #6 Cole Matthews 3-1 and #7 Kizhan Clarke 4-3. Gerardi enters at 10-6 on the year and 2-2 in the ACC, with losses to Matthews and Clarke as well. This has the makings of a gritty, low-scoring match.

    149: #5 Bryce Andonian vs #3 Tariq Wilson

    SO much potential for fireworks in this one! After a hiatus in the middle of the season, Andonian has returned with a vengeance for ACC competition. He is 7-1 on the year, with his only loss to #2 Sammy Sasso in November. Andonian is 3-0 in the ACC with a decision win over Jarod Verkleeren, a major decision of #17 Zach Sherman and a 21-second pin of #14 Josh Finesilver. The Hokie 149 lber is a two-time NCAA qualifier and fell in the bloodround last year. Tariq Wilson is a four-time NCAA qualifier and has twice placed third at the NCAA tournament. He is undefeated on the year at 12-0 and has four wins in the ACC with decisions over Verkleeren, Sherman, Finesilver and Dan Mancini. Both of these guys are very dangerous from their feet. Wilson has incredibly fast shots and is able to close a lot of space with his length. Andonian isn't afraid to work from any position; he never seems to be uncomfortable with a situation and is always willing to take a risk to score points. This one is going to be fun.

    157: #28 Connor Brady vs. #11 Ed Scott

    Don't count out the Hokies in this one just because there isn't a lofty ranking beside Brady's name. Brady started the year 11-2 before entering ACC competition but has dropped his last four and hasn't found a win in conference. Aside from a tech fall from Austin O'Connor, all of his conference matches have been close; he lost in sudden victory to #21 Elijah Cleary, a 4-3 decision on a last-second takedown to Wade Unger and a tight 5-3 decision to Jake Keating. Ed Scott has had a fantastic season and a highlight reel to show for it. He comes in at 18-1 with his only blemish an 11-10 loss to Keating. Scott won by tech fall over Unger and a 6-2 decision over Cleary; O'Connor did not wrestle in the UNC/NC State dual, so Scott won by tech fall over Mason Phillips. He has a 73% bonus rate on the year with seven pins and six tech falls. Scott is always in go mode and has put up some crazy offensive numbers this year.

    165: Clayton Ulrey vs. #21 Thomas Bullard

    This is another sneaky good match that will play a big role in the team outcome. Ulrey has had a strong season and has really come on in the second half. He is 14-11 on the year, but when you look into his record, it tells an interesting story. His record includes losses to the wrestlers currently ranked #2, #4, #7, #9, #16, #19 and #23--and only two of his losses were by bonus points. He has solid defense and fights to stay in every match, which has been a benefit to the team on multiple occasions. Bullard is a four-time NCAA qualifier and came back for his super senior year to help the team and make one more run at the All-American podium. He is 16-5 on the season and is 3-1 in the ACC with a one-point loss to #16 Jake Wentzel. He has great defense and is a solid top wrestler--he also has an uncanny ability to win close matches.

    174: #3 Mekhi Lewis vs. #4 Hayden Hidlay

    This match alone is worth the price of admission. This is the battle we have all had circled on the calendar. 2019 National Champion Mekhi Lewis takes on 3-time (4 with the shortened 2020 season) All-American Hayden Hidlay. They have never met before and are both at a new weight for the season; Lewis is up from 165 while Hidlay bumped up two weights from 157. Lewis comes in undefeated at 17-0, while Hidlay is coming off his first loss of the year on Friday night, when he was pinned by #9 Clay Lautt. Both of these guys are phenomenal on their feet; both creating their own offense and with lightning-quick reshots and go behinds.

    184: #14 Hunter Bolen vs #3 Trent Hidlay

    If the first four times these guys have met have taught us anything, it is that this match will be an absolute battle. Bolen holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage, but Hilday picked up the last win in the ACC finals last year on his way to an NCAA finals appearance; Bolen also finished on the podium last year, bringing home a 7th place finish. Bolen comes in at 19-3 and his only loss in the ACC was a sudden victory loss to Gavin Kane; Hidlay enters undefeated at 14-0. Their previous matches have all been low-scoring affairs, and I wouldn't expect anything different here as both are incredibly difficult to score on.

    197: #30 Dakota Howard vs. #15 Isaac Trumble

    This is another match that could have an absolute bonkers score--both of these guys have incredible motors and aren't afraid to attack and go upper body. Howard is up two weight classes from last year's dual but has had a solid season at 197. He is 13-7 on the year and 2-2 in the ACC, with losses to Nino Bonaccorsi and Jay Aiello. Trumble is 18-3 and comes in on an absolute heater of a run, having upset wins over Jay Aiello and Nino Bonaccorsi in back-to-back weeks before winning a decision over Max Shaw on Friday. Trumble uses his length really well and is a tall 197--Howard is shorter for the weight but has an attack rate to rival anyone in the country.

    285: #14 Nathan Traxler vs. #26 Tyrie Houghton

    I'd say the dual will come down to this match, but I just found out we are starting at 165--but this will still be a great match. Houghton won out the spot over Deonte Wilson and Owen Trephan, both of whom who also have ranked wins on the year. He is gritty and relentless for a big guy--he has several go-ahead takedowns in the third period. Traxler has had a fantastic season since transferring from Stanford. He lost early in the year to Tate Orndorff and then went on a nearly full season winning streak before dropping a tight decision to Quinn Miller on Friday. He is 16-2 on the year and 3-1 in the ACC. Trephan comes in at 21-8 for the season and 3-0 in the ACC.

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