We are one month into the college wrestling season and we have seen some quality wins and some head-scratching losses already in the ACC. Let’s recap what we have seen so far and an area of focus for each team as we move into the second month of the season.
Dual Record: 2-4 Wins: Kent State, Cleveland State Losses: Rutgers, Cal Poly, Stanford, WVU
Top Wrestlers in November: Gaetano Console, Connor Barket
Highlights: The Blue Devils started off 0-3 after a rough road trip to the West Coast to start the season. They bounced back with wins over Cleveland State and Kent State and an up-and-down performance at the Keystone Classic. The highlight of the year so far has been the pin of All-American Peyton Hall by Gaetano Console at the tri in West Virginia.
Area of focus/concern: Steady Improvement. The Blue Devils have a young lineup that will need to continue showing incremental improvement throughout the season to have a chance at making the NCAA tournament.
Looking ahead: The Blue Devils are off this week and will return to action on December 8th at Davidson.
Dual Record: 5-2 Wins: Greensboro, Queens, ASU, Buffalo, CMU Losses: Illinois, Oregon State
Top Wrestlers in November: Spencer Moore, Lachlan McNeil, Gavin Kane
Highlights: The Tar Heels already have seven duals under their belt, including a big win over Arizona State and close losses to Oregon State and Illinois. They have relied on consistency from experienced starters like Lachlan McNeil, Spencer Moore, Gavin Kane, and Max Shaw while they ease a lot of new faces into the lineup. I’ve been very impressed by the return of Spencer Moore as a bigger and more physical 125. Lachlan McNeil has looked phenomenal every time he’s stepped on the mat. Cade Lautt at 285 is a fun development; he hasn’t backed down from anyone and is off to a great start at the new weight.
Area of focus/concern: Middleweights. The lower weights are solid with Moore, McCrary, and McNeil to open the lineup. Jayden Scott and Danny Nini are both redshirt freshmen with tremendous potential and they are off to a good start. 165 and 174 have been the soft spot in the lineup in the first month for the Tar Heels. Between the three main starters at 165 and 174 so far this year they are a combined 12-13. Tyler Eischens will be a second-semester transfer and will help shore up 174, but 165 will be a spot of focus moving forward.
Looking Ahead: The Tar Heels are one of three ACC teams that are making the trip to Vegas for the CKLV.
Dual Record: 7-0 Wins: Presbyterian, App State, Bloomsburg, Purdue, Army, Sacred Heart, Binghamton
Top Wrestlers in November: Jakob Camacho, Kai Orine, Ryan Jack, Jackson Arrington, Dylan Fishback, Trent Hidlay
Highlights: The Wolfpack team has looked incredible to start the year, dropping only eight individual matches in seven duals to start the season. Jakob Camacho, returning after knee surgery last season, has established himself at the top of a volatile 125 weight class after soundly beating NCAA finalist Matt Ramos. Camacho, Kai Orine, Ryan Jack, and Jackson Arrington have all opened the season undefeated for a combined 20-0 record; if you add in Dylan Fishback and Trent Hidlay that record moves up to 33-0. The freshman Fishback has made a big impression already, I’m excited to see what he does this year.
Area of focus/concern: It’s hard to find a glaring area of focus on a 7-0 team, but there are a couple things that I’m interested in watching moving forward. Kai Orine has only wrestled in two matches; he won both, but his last match was a sudden victory win in which he did not look himself. Kai is a bigger 133 but has always handled his weight cut well, so I’m hopeful it is just an early season hiccup and he will be on track moving forward. The other thing to watch is 165 where they are still trying to work out who will be the full-time starter. AJ Kovacs and Derek Fields have both gotten reps in the starting spot; Kovacs will get the nod at the CKLV this weekend.
Looking Ahead: The Wolfpack will also head to the CKLV this weekend.
Dual Record: 4-1 Wins: Morgan State, VMI, Maryland, Lehigh Loss: Navy
Top Wrestlers in November: Finn Solomon, Holden Heller, Luca Augustine, Reece Heller, Mac Stout, Dayton Pitzer
Highlights: The Panthers have a solid mix of top-tier upperclassmen and talented underclassmen in the lineup this season and they are off to a strong start. They had a great opening weekend at the Clarion Open and have put together four dual wins; they had a down performance against a scrappy Navy squad for their only loss. Finn Solomon has made a big impact already, coming in as a transfer from NC State; he is off to a 9-2 start. Luca Augustine has also looked fantastic to start the year; Augustine and Holden Heller both hold unblemished records moving into December.
Area of focus/concern: Consistency. The Panthers have the lineup this year to make a run at ACC titles and put several on the podium in Kansas City. Over the past two years, they have had a few head-scratching losses--individually and as a team--that highlighted their need to perform consistently at their highest level. They looked fantastic against Lehigh and Maryland, but had a down performance at Navy; on paper, all three of these duals should have been wins for the Panthers. To get to the next level as a program they need to figure out how to minimize the hiccups and have all ten starters firing on all cylinders; they will need solid whole team performances to beat the best in the ACC and nationally.
Looking Ahead: The Panthers travel west to face B1G foe Illinois on Sunday.
Dual Record: 2-0 Wins: LIU, Buffalo
Top Wrestlers in November: Marlon Yarbrough, Jack Gioffre, Dylan Cedeno, Justin McCoy, Ryan Catka
Highlights: The Hoos schedule is front-loaded with tournaments, so we have only seen them in duals for one event. They opened with a down performance at the Southeast Open but had a much better showing at the Appalachian Invite before dominating both duals they wrestled at the Armbar at the Armory event. I was impressed by how well they adjusted after the Southeast Open; they looked like a different team in the next two outings. We knew the Hoos would have a talented young lineup, but I’ve been especially impressed with what we’ve seen from Marlon Yarbrough this year; he has made huge gains in the offseason and is going to play a pivotal role for the team moving forward.
Area of focus/concern: Health. Injuries have already impacted the UVA lineup with Gabe Christensen and Haydn Danals both down for the year. They have good depth at some weights but could be greatly impacted by an injury at their thinner weights. The Hoos have a very young and very dangerous lineup, they will need to keep the whole squad healthy to make a mark nationally this year.
Looking Ahead: The Hoos travel to North Dakota to face the Bison of North Dakota State on Saturday night.
Dual Record: 2-1 Wins: American, Rutgers Loss: Ohio State
Top Wrestlers in November: Sam Latona, Caleb Henson, Bryce Andonian, Mekhi Lewis
Highlights: After a down performance in their opening dual against Ohio State, the Hokies have rounded back into form with a big dual win over Rutgers in New Jersey and a stellar team performance at the Keystone Classic. The Hokies have an incredibly talented lineup, they just need everyone to be clicking at the same time throughout the weights. Like NC State, the Hokies are also determining their full-time starter at 165 with Connor Brady, Clayton Ulrey, and Rafael Hippolito all taking reps so far this season.
Area of focus/concern: Finishing matches. You can point to several examples of matches already this year that could/should have been wins for the Hokies that were lost in the closing minutes or seconds of matches. I have no doubt that the coaching staff is focused on this as well, as it could make the difference between conference titles and All-American finishes at several weights.
Looking Ahead: The Hokies are the final ACC squad to take the mats in Vegas at the CKLV.