Virginia Tech's 2x NCAA finalist Mekhi Lewis (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
We are entering the slowest time of the season in the ACC. For the next four weeks leading up to the new year, we will only have two ACC teams in action each week--one week will have three teams competing. While we may not have the quantity of competition for the next month, there will be some high-quality duals and tournaments to keep our attention. Starting this week the two teams in action will be Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
The Panthers made a northern swing this weekend, facing Brown on Friday, followed by a Sunday dual in New York City against Columbia.
This was the first match for the Panthers facing former Associate Head Coach Jordan Leen, who took the helm of the Bears this summer. Leen spent five years under Coach Gavin at Pitt, in addition to their time together at Virginia. Pitt responded well to their second weekend in a row on the road, taking down the Bears 41-3. They rested several of their normal starters and had some wrestlers making their dual debuts.
#20 Pitt 41, Brown 3
125: #30 Colton Camacho (Pitt) pins Shane Hanson-Ashworth (Brown), 4:13
133: #9 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) maj. dec. Hunter Adrian (Brown), 13-5
141: Justin Bierdumpfel (Brown) dec. Emory Taylor (Pitt), 6-4
149: Tyler Badgett (Pitt) pins Blake Saito (Brown), 3:41
157: #21 Dazjon Casto (Pitt) pins Keegan Rothrock (Brown), 2:59
165: Jared Keslar (Pitt) dec. Mason Spears (Brown), 3-1
174: #33 Luca Augustine (Pitt) dec. Drew Clearie (Brown), 12-5
184: James Lledo (Pitt) pins James Araneo (Brown), 4:10
197: #3 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) maj. dec. Aaron Wolk (Brown), 15-3
285: Jake Slinger (Pitt) dec. Thomas Mukai (Brown), 7-0
The Sunday dual with Columbia has several intriguing matchups, and some ranked versus ranked matches. Coach Tanelli and crew have done a phenomenal job building the Lions program in recent years, and they are seeing success on the mat.
125: #30 Colton Camacho v Nick Babin
133: #9 Micky Phillippi v Angelo Rini
141: #1 Cole Matthews v #27 Matt Kazimir
149: Tyler Badgett v Danny Fongaro
157: #21 Dazjon Casto v Cesar Alvan
165: #17 Holden Heller v #12 Josh Ogunsanya
174: #33 Luca Augustine v Lenox Wolak
184: #28 Reece Heller v Jack Wehmeyer
197: #3 Nino Bonaccorsi v Michael Baker
285: Jake Slinger v Daniel Conley
I'm keeping a close eye on a few of these matchups that have the potential to be quite entertaining. Micky Phillippi will have Angelo Rini, who while unranked, is a scrappy opponent. The same can be said about Matt Kazimir, who will face Cole Matthews at 141. The two other big matches I'm looking at are at 165, with our only ranked-versus-ranked matchup featuring #17 Holden Heller and #12 Josh Ogunsanya. 174 should be good as well; Lenox Wolak isn't ranked but has a huge win over #7 Ethan Smith and nearly a second win over him last week at the CKLV.
#15 Virginia Tech
The Hokies have a huge dual this weekend to open up their home slate for the season. They will face #6 Missouri at Cassell Coliseum on Sunday afternoon and are looking to upset the Tigers for the second-straight season.
125: Cooper Flynn v Peyton Moore
133: #12 Sam Latona v #26 Connor Brown
141: #15 Tom Crook v #6 Allan Hart
149: #12 Caleb Henson v #9 Brock Mauller
157: Clayton Ulrey v #13 Jarrett Jacques
165: #22 Connor Brady v #1 Keegan O'Toole
174: #3 Mekhi Lewis v #11 Peyton Mocco
184: #8 Hunter Bolen v #23 Sean Harman or Colton Hawks
197: #21 Andy Smith v #1 Rocky Elam
285: #22 Hunter Catka v #8 Zach Elam
This dual has a ton of firepower on both sides and will be entertaining from start to finish. Between the squads there are two NCAA Champions, seven All-Americans, 20 nationally ranked wrestlers, 18 returning NCAA qualifiers and four world-level medalists--3 World Champions and a World Bronze medalist. Each team will have a couple starters out, but have very capable backups ready to fill the spot. On paper, Mizzou will be slightly favored, but there are several toss-up matches that will determine how this dual will end up.
Since this is a non-conference match, I can be an unabashed ACC homer, so let's look at the Virginia Tech path to victory.
125: Cooper Flynn is getting the nod on Sunday while Eddie Ventresca will rest; the Hokies will need a win from Flynn and bonus points would be huge.
133: The Hokies need Sam Latona to be on point and wrestle like All-American Sam Latona. If Sam wrestles his match, he gets points for the home team.
141: Allen Hart will be favored over Tom Crook, but I wouldn't count out Tampa Tom. Crook comes in at 10-2, with multiple ranked wins this year. Hart is 2-1 on the year and has a loss to Jesse Vasquez of ASU, who Crook beat last week at CKLV.
149: Speaking of not counting out a freshman, Caleb Henson comes in at 10-1 and ranked #12. He will face two-time All-American, #9 Brock Mauller who comes in at 5-1 on the year. This will be one of the key matches in the dual. Mauller is favored on paper, but Henson has shown that he can beat anyone in the country. Henson did not compete at CKLV and will come in rested and hungry.
157: While Bryce Andonian continues to work through a toe injury, Clayton Ulrey will man the spot at 157. He will face #13 Jarrett Jacques, a very dynamic wrestler who can throw up a lot of points. Ulrey has the ability to slow down aggressive wrestlers, and when he is on, can score very well with his counter offense. The Hokies will need Ulrey to come through for the team on Sunday. A win would be amazing, but he at least needs to minimize team points if he loses.
165: Connor Brady will have his hands full with one of the best wrestlers in the country, returning NCAA Champion, Keegan O'Toole. Brady is great defensively and will need every bit of that defensive skill to slow down a very dangerous O'Toole and minimize the damage on the scoreboard.
174: The Hokies need Bro Bro to show out in Cassell; bonus points from the team leader would be huge. Lewis will face Peyton Mocco, who he beat last year in the dual--though it went to tiebreakers. Lewis looked phenomenal in Vegas and seemed like a man on a mission. They need that same performance on Sunday.
184: A similar statement can be made about Hunter Bolen. He looked great in Vegas and ended the tournament on a big positive, knocking off Kaleb Romero. He will face either #23 Sean Harman or Colton Hawks. Bolen will be favored against either, the Christiansburg Cowboy can help the team by showing the attacking form that helped him earn All-American status, scoring early and often.
197: Andy Smith also had a great showing in Vegas, making the semifinals before medically defaulting out after a close loss to Tanner Harvey. Smith put himself on the national radar last weekend and has the potential to make a lot of noise facing #1 Rocky Elam. Smith will need to slow the match down and make his attacks count, both of which he did very well last week, to have a chance to knock off the top-ranked Elam.
285: Hunter Catka could have the opportunity to slam the door on this dual, but he will have to go through #8 Zach Elam to do it. Catka is 7-2 while Elam comes in at 5-1; both hold a similar win over Michael Wolfgram, both by decision. For Catka to win this match, he will have to dictate the pace and not wait for Elam.
The Hokies certainly have a path to victory--if they can manage one â€œupsetâ€ and win where they are favored they can make it happen. They could make it a significantly easier path by being on the winning side of the bonus point battle as well. I'm very pumped up for this dual and I will be there to cover as much as I can before, during and after the dual. Cassell Coliseum will be rocking, and if you can't be in Blacksburg you can catch the dual on ACC Network Extra at 4:30pm.