North Carolina 133 lber Joey Melendez (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Most of the conference opened the 2022-2023 season on the Open circuit. North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech were at the Southeast Open, while Pittsburgh was at the Clarion Open. NC State opened with a dual at home, while Duke was at the Maryland Duals for three duals to start the year. We saw good performances by the limited upperclassmen that wrestled this weekend, but I was incredibly impressed by the performance of the freshmen across all of the teams.
The Blue Devils went 1-2 on the day at the Maryland Duals. They dropped matches to Maryland (37-0) and American (21-15) while picking up a win over Bloomsburg (32-6). Five wrestlers notched up two wins on the day. Patrick Rowland (149), Gaetano Console (165), Conor Becker (174), Vince Baker (197) and Jonah Neisenbaum (285) all picked up two wins for the Blue Devils. Also adding a win on the day were Logan Agin (125), Christian Colman (133), Nick Tattini (157), Luke Chakonis (184), Jack Wimmer (184) and Jared Papscy (149). The Blue Devils will be back in action at the Battle at the Citadel next Sunday.
The Panthers sent 18 to the Clarion Open on Sunday with a mix of true freshmen, starters, and others looking to break into the lineup. They sent four to the finals and were highlighted by a title at 197 from true freshman Mac Stout.
Colton Camacho had a good start at 125. He had a tech fall, two major decisions and a decision win on his way to the finals against #10 Matt Ramos (Purdue). Camacho dropped a 6-3 decision in the finals to Ramos, but looked solid all day. At 149, Tyler Badgett made a fantastic run to the finals; he had a tech fall, a major decision and two decision wins to make the finals. He finished in second, dropping to former U17 World Champion Meyer Shapiro in the finals.
The Panthers had two on the podium at 184 in Reece Heller and Nicholas Meglino. Heller went tech fall, decision, major decision on his way to the finals, where he lost to Will Feldkamp (Clarion); it was a strong Pitt debut for Heller. Meglino was 4-2 on the day to finish in 4th.
Mac Stout had a fantastic debut for the Panthers. He was 4-0 with a fall and a major decision on his way to earning the coveted helmet of the Clarion Open. His biggest win was over #24 Jake Koser (Navy) in the semifinals; he then topped Tyler Bagoly (Clarion) to win the title. The final placer on the day was Jake Slinger who went 3-2 on his way to a 4th-place finish.
The Panthers will be back in action in a dual at Cleveland State on Friday.
#18 North Carolina
The Tar Heels took a smaller roster that was a mix of starters and freshmen to compete in both divisions. In the Freshman/Sophomore division, Cade Tenold was the highest placer with a 2nd place finish at 174. The Heels had seven top-4 placers in some pretty solid brackets. They were led by Joey Melendez who took home the title at 133 with a win over Pat Phillips of Franklin & Marshall. Phillips took out Sam Latona earlier in the day. Clay Lautt also made the finals at 174, but defaulted out to take 2nd. Finishing in third place were Brandon Whitman (285), Max Shaw (197) and Gavin Kane (184) while Jayden Scott (149) and Lachlan McNeil (141) ended the day in fourth.
On Sunday, Marisol Nugent traveled to the Princeton Open to wrestle in the Women's Division. She had an impressive day, going tech fall, pin, pin on her way to the finals. She dropped a tight match in the finals to earn a second-place finish.
The Tar Heels have a big week coming up with two non-traditional duals. They will face Campbell at the Battle at Ft. Bragg on Friday, then will host Michigan in Doubles on the Diamond on the UNC baseball field Sunday afternoon. I will have a story to go behind the scenes at both of these events later this week.
#9 North Carolina State
The Wolfpack opened the season with a dual against Appalachian State at home in Reynolds Coliseum. They were led by pins from #3 Trent Hidlay and #18 Isaac Trumble in back-to-back matches. #21 Ryan Jack opened the night with a 9-2 decision over a tough Heath Gonyer. This was followed by the debut of true freshman Jackson Arrington; unfortunately, his draw was two-time All-American #6 Jon Millner. Arrington wrestled well and was able to keep Millner's scoring to a minimum, but dropped his first match 6-0. In the first ranked versus ranked match of the evening, #7 Ed Scott controlled the match against #24 Cody Bond and earned the 14-5 major decision.
At 165 we saw the impressive, yet frustrating, first match as a starter for Donald Cates. He wrestled very well against #14 Will Formato; who has given the Wolfpack fits for the past few years. Cates was warned for stalling early in the match for backing out on the edge without trying to return to the center. For those who were upset, this is a point of emphasis this year and we will see this call a lot, especially early in the season, to get the wrestlers used to the new interpretation. Cates kept the match tight and it went into overtime at 2-2. In the first overtime period, Cates was hit with his second stalling call for backing up, giving Formato the win 3-2 with the penalty point. After this tough loss, the Wolfpack went on a run of four wins straight. Brock Delsignore won by decision, followed by the back-to-back pins from Hidlay and Trumble and a decision win from Owen Trephan at 285.
The final two matches of the night were much-anticipated ranked-versus-ranked-matchups featuring four pretty scrappy wrestlers. #17 Jarrett Trombley dropped a tight 3-2 decision to #18 Caleb Smith and #11 Kai Orine also lost a heartbreaker 3-2 to #26 Sean Carter.
The Wolfpack took the dual 26-12 and stretched their dual winning streak to 10. They will be back in action next week at Journeymen WrangleMania on Saturday where they will face #14 Nebraska and Lock Haven followed by the Journeymen Classic tournament on Sunday.
I've been talking a lot about the young talent in the ACC and highlighted some of them after the UVA wrestle-offs last week. They showed out this weekend. In a big way. The true freshmen for UVA brought home five titles in the freshman/sophomore division at the Southeast Open. Kyle Montaperto (125), Garrett Grice (133), Michael Gioffre (149), Nick Sanko (157) and Nick Hamilton (165) all earned titles on Saturday; Keyveon Roller also got onto the podium, placing 3rd at 133.
The Hoos had a solid day in the Open Division as well. Dylan Cedeno beat #24 Collin Gerardi (VT) in the semifinals, but lost by decision in the finals to Tom Crook (VT) to earn second place. The Cavaliers had a trio earn 3rd place finishes on the day. At 133, Marlon Yarbrough lost to Joey Melendez (UNC) in the semifinals before receiving a medical forfeit to take third. #21 Jarod Verkleeren wrestled well throughout the day; he lost a 3-1 decision to #30 Sammy Hillegas (WVU) in the semifinals and came back to beat Jayden Scott (UNC) 8-3 to finish in 3rd. Vic Marcelli dropped a 2-1 decision to All-American #5 Clay Lautt (UNC) in the semifinals and received a MFF in the bronze match. Neil Antrassian had a great debut for the Hoos, finishing in fourth, dropping a tight match to #10 Gavin Kane 6-3. Joe Haynes (125), Denton Spencer (149) and Haydn Danals (184) all finished in fifth place.
UVA is on the road next weekend for a tournament at Appalachian State.
#15 Virginia Tech
When I say the freshmen showed out this weekend, I meant it. Three true freshmen also took home titles for the Hokies this weekend. In the Freshman/Sophomore division, TJ Stewart took the title at 197, going 4-0 on the day; Ty Finn dropped a decision in the finals to earn a 2nd place finish.
In the Open Division, the Hokies cleaned up. They finished with five champions, three 2nd place, two 3rd place and one each in 4th and 5th.
For the second-straight year, we had an all-Hokies final at 125 with #28 Eddie Ventresca and Cooper Flynn. For the second-straight year, and for the second time in two weeks, it was a one-point match that ended in overtime. Ventresca took his second-straight title with a one-point win in tiebreakers over Flynn. At 133, Sam Latona got off to a slow start, dropping a close 5-3 decision in his opening match to Pat Phillips (F&M) before reeling off four straight wins to finish in 5th.
In what may be the story of the tournament, true freshman Tom Crook made his presence known, navigating a tough weight on his way to his first Southeast Open title. He had a decision win over #10 Matt Kazimir (Columbia), an NCAA qualifier, before topping #20 Lachlan McNeil (UNC) in the semifinals; he finished off his day with a 7-3 decision over Dylan Cedeno (UVA) to get to the top step of the podium. Crook looked fantastic in every position; he had a phenomenal day. He certainly made his case to earn the starting spot at 141; I will be watching this one closely. #24 Collin Gerardi finished third at this weight; dropping a 4-2 decision in sudden victory to Cedeno in the semifinals before beating Lachlan McNeil 7-1 in the 3rd place bout.
At 149, true freshman Caleb Henson earned his second Southeast Open title. He won last year as a high school senior. Henson was methodically working his way through his bracket to finish 5-0 and win the title. He had a pin, a tech fall and three decisions, topping #30 Sam Hillegas 3-0 in the finals. The Hokies had two placers at 165 with Drew Nicholson in second and Conor Brady in third. Both had their only loss to #10 Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia); Brady lost in the semifinals 3-1 in sudden victory and Nicholson lost 9-6 in the finals.
#2 Mekhi Lewis made his season debut, albeit a shortened one. Lewis went 2-0 to open the tournament with two tech falls (22-7 and 21-6) in the opening rounds before medically defaulting from the tournament as planned. Sam Fisher had a great tournament at 184 and finished in 2nd. He had a huge win over #10 Gavin Kane in the semifinals before falling to Anthony Carman (WVU) in the finals. The finals two placers for the Hokies were at the top two weights. Andy Smith took the title at 197 with a major decision over Austin Cooley (WVU) in the finals. #19 Hunter Catka rolled through the tournament with a tech fall and two pins before winning the title over #20 Michael Wolfgram (WVU) 4-1.
All in all, it was a strong day for the Hokies. They showcased their young talent and got some matches in to prepare a lot of their starters for a big dual on Friday at #4 Ohio State.