2020 ACC champion Jakob Camacho (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
As we enter week three, the ACC teams are transitioning from primarily open tournaments to some very tough out-of-conference duals. We run from teams with one dual--NC State, Pittsburgh, UVA-to two duals-Virginia Tech, UNC-to three duals for the Duke Blue Devils. It will be a busy weekend for the ACC.
Duke: The Blue Devils will have a lengthy trip to West Lafayette, Indiana for the Boilermaker Duals. Duke will have a full day on Sunday, meeting Bellarmine, Northern Illinois and #21 Purdue. It will be a busy weekend for the Blue Devils, but there will be a few big matches to keep an eye on. Against Purdue: #7 Matt Finesilver will hit #20 Gerrit Nijenhuis--Finesilver has started hot 7-0, picking up two open titles. He looks to keep the momentum going against a scrappy freshman. In the Northern Illinois, dual I'm watching 125 to see how Login Agin matches up with Drew West; Agin has started off 4-2 this year and this could be a good weekend to gauge his progress. There aren't any big individual matches that stand out against Bellarmine, but I think it will be a good marking point for the team to see how they compete against both Bellarmine and Northern Illinois.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels kicked off the dual action for the week with a top-15 match Wednesday in Lincoln, taking on the Huskers. Earl previewed this dual for us, focusing on the spotlight matchup between Kizhan Clarke and Chad Red. After leaving Nebraska, they head back home for an in-state showdown with Campbell on Sunday. Campbell returns south after their Saturday matchup with UVA. North Carolina should be favored at the lower weights, while Campbell has a slight edge at the upper weights. The biggest matches to watch here are at 149, where #4 Zach Sherman will face #16 Josh Heil; at 174 Campbell will send out #16 Austin Murphy to meet either #22 Gavin Kane or Clay Lautt (#22 at 184). UNC will look to finish out the weekend on a strong note after a tough dual midweek.
NC State: The Wolfpack will open their dual slate this year with a home match against West Virginia in Raleigh on Sunday. This will be the first action for several of the starters in the lineup, including Tariq Wilson and the Hidlay brothers. There could be three ranked versus ranked matchups in the dual. At 125, #9 Jakob Camacho could face All-American #8 Killian Cardinale in the top-ranked matchup of the dual. Coming off a strong weekend performance, Super-Senior #17 Thomas Bullard will scrap with #16 Peyton Hall--the freshman is 6-0 to start the season. The final potential ranked match will be at 285, where WVU sends out #33 Michael Wolfgram against #20 Owen Trephan. Trephan has two wins over last year's starter Deonte Wilson who was ranked to start the season. The Wolfpack should be able to dispatch the Mountaineers soundly--the biggest thing to watch will be the lineup they send out. Between balancing the schedule for the Super-Seniors and the chaos we have seen with teammates trading wins against each other in opens to start the season, there are a lot of potential lineups the Wolfpack could throw out Saturday.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers started their dual season last week, going 2-0 against Buffalo and Edinboro. They will again hit the road for an in-state battle with #16 Lehigh. The Panthers have sent out different wrestlers at multiple weights in the duals to start the season, so their lineup will be interesting to watch as well. At 125, Gage Curry #24 or Colton Camacho will face #16 Jaret Lane; 133 will also be ranked versus ranked with #5 Micky Phillippi squaring up with Malyke Hines. 157 will see #33 Elijah Cleary-who broke into the rankings this week after a strong start-facing #9 Josh Humphreys. The match I'm most looking forward to is at heavyweight. Jacob Slinger has been on a tear to start the season, notching two pins last weekend. I'm interested to see how he fares against a very strong, consistent heavyweight in #10 Jordan Wood--this will be a great gauge to see where he is early in the season. Lehigh has a strong dual team, but Pitt has the firepower to take the match. There will be several toss-up matches, and a lot of the potential to win rests on who Pitt sends out to the mat. I'm hopeful we see the full-strength Pitt lineup--if they bring out their big guns, they should take this dual and have a 3-0 start.
Virginia: The Hoos also have two duals under their belt, going 2-0 against American and Maryland to start the year. They open their home schedule with the Camels of Campbell. A quick look at the matchups favors UVA, but Campbell is a scrappy team and they will come to Charlottesville ready to battle. At 149 #29 Jarod Verkleeren will face his biggest test of the early season with #16 Josh Heil. Verkleeren has started off 2-0 and looked very comfortable at 149; Heil is a great technician and doesn't give up a lot of points. It should be a good matchup. Several of the weights are pretty evenly matched and the dual could very well come down to a sneaky-tough matchup at heavyweight. #18 Quinn Miller has started 2-0 for the Hoos and #29 Taye Ghadiali has exploded out of the gates this year with a 7-1 start, including a win over ACC Champion Deonte Wilson from NC State. This will be a very entertaining dual and I'm excited to see the Hoos open their home slate on Saturday.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have a huge dual to start the season in Blacksburg. The Buckeyes come to Tech for a top-10 dual with the Hokies. This dual will be fire from start to finish. The full breakdown will be posted on the site. The dual will hinge on a few toss-up matches, and momentum could play a significant role, giving the Hokies a home mat advantage. The two biggest matches of the dual: #2 Sammy Sasso versus #9 Bryce Andonian at 149 in the kitchen sink battle--both of these guys let it fly and are incredible scramblers--should be very entertaining. #4 Mekhi Lewis hits #6 Ethan Smith in what will be the first big test for Mekhi on the season. He is coming back healthy and is always a joy to watch. The Hokies will follow up the big Friday night tussle with a Saturday midday dual with Gardner-Webb. The two matches I'm most excited to see are at 165, with Clayton Ulrey hitting Rodrick Mosely and at 184 with #9 Hunter Bolen matching up with Jha'Quan Anderson, who has one of the best double legs I've seen this year. The Runnin' Bulldogs are getting better every year and have shown the ability for their guys to win in some big matches.