Bryce Andonian (left) and Austin O'Connor at the 2021 ACC Championships (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
We only have two weeks left in the ACC dual season and we have a couple duals tonight that have major implications on the ACC Dual Championship as well as big seeding implications for the ACC tournament. Duke will take on Virginia in teams looking to break through to their first win. Virginia Tech will head to Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels in a dual that could put the winner in position for a share of the dual title. And in Raleigh, we have a huge dual between undefeated Pitt and one-loss, but higher ranked, NC State. Pittsburgh has the chance to slam the door on the rest of the conference with a win over the Wolfpack. It’s going to be a fun night in ACC country. Duke versus UVA will be on the ACC Network while the VT/UNC dual and Pitt/NC State will be on ACC Network Extra and will stream on the ESPN app. All duals start at 7pm. I will be in Charlottesville to cover the UVA/Duke dual, but will have the other two pulled up and trying to catch all the action.
Duke at Virginia
The Blue Devils venture north to Charlottesville to face the Hoos on Senior Night. UVA will honor 15 (!?!) wrestlers making their final home appearance for the Cavaliers. Both programs are looking for their first ACC win and these individual matchups will play a huge role in seeding for the ACC tournament. The Blue Devils will again be without a starter at 174 due to injury and the Hoos will be starting Ethan Weatherspoon at 285 in their revolving crew of heavyweights who have been in and out of the lineup with injuries.
It appears as though Jonah Neisenbaum will be back at the helm at 285 for the Blue Devils after being out last week against Virginia Tech. He is 2-0 in ACC duals and is fighting for a top seed at the ACC tournament.
UVA has been led by Justin McCoy and Jarod Verkleeren who are both 2-1 in-conference. Neil Antrassian and Michael Battista have both looked great in the back half of the season and are looking to even out their record at 2-2 with wins against Duke.
125: Patrick McCormick vs Ethan Grimminger
133: Marlon Yarbrough vs Logan Agin
141: Dylan Cedeno vs Christian Colman
149: No. 26 Jarod Verkleeren vs Patrick Rowland
157: Jake Keating vs Logan Ferrero
165: No. 17 Justin McCoy vs Gabe Dinette
174: Vic Marcelli OR Justin Phillips vs OPEN
184: No. 16 Neil Antrassian vs Luke Chakonis
197: No. 25 Michael Battista vs Brayden Ray
285: Ethan Weatherspoon vs #22 Jonah Neisenbaum
#25 North Carolina at #6 Virginia Tech
The Hokies head back to North Carolina for the second week in a row to square off with the Tar Heels in a dual that potentially has major implications in the race for the ACC dual title; the winner of this dual puts themselves in position for a share of the ACC title with an NC State win over Pittsburgh. The Hokies are favored on paper with nine wrestlers in the Intermat rankings to 6 for the Tar Heels.
There are some phenomenal matchups in this dual--a couple of these are must-watch for all NCAA wrestling fans. At 141, we may see a rematch of Tom Crook and Lachlan McNeil. Crook beat McNeil at the Southeast Open in November. At 149, we could see true freshman sensation Caleb Henson taking on All-American Zach Sherman; this one is a big maybe, Sherman was injured against UVA two weeks ago and didn’t wrestle last week. At 184, Gavin Kane has been on a great run for the Tar Heels and is 3-0 in the ACC; he will take on Hunter Bolen who has two heartbreaking losses to Trent Hidlay in SV and Reece Heller by defensive pin. Bolen and Kane have met twice with Kane holding a 2-0 advantage.
Two more big ones to watch--both of which are rematches of previous ACC finals. At 174, we could see a rematch of the 2022 final with Mekhi Lewis and Clay Lautt. Lewis holds a 3-0 advantage in the series. Lewis is nearly flawless on the year at 14-1 and has looked amazing. Lautt started the year strong but was injured in a loss in December, he comes into this match at 6-3. Since returning, he is 1-1 with a tech fall over Gaetano Console of Duke and an upset loss last week to Luca Augustine in sudden victory. It appears as though he is still getting back to full strength and speed and I’m hoping he will be 100% for the ACC tournament--because of this, I’m not sure that we will see him against Mekhi.
Now the big one. If you don’t watch this match, you hate wrestling. Austin O’Connor and Bryce Andonian are both highly entertaining, explosively offensive wrestlers who will throw caution to the wind and wrestle wide-open. Both are undefeated on the year and have wrestled partial seasons coming back from injuries; Andonian is 6-0 with 5 bonus point wins while O'Connor is 14-0 with 13 bonus point wins. O’Connor is 4-0 against Andonian, with all of their previous matches--including two ACC finals matches--at 149 pounds.
No. 7 Virginia Tech vs North Carolina
125 – Eddie Ventresca vs No. 17 Jack Wagner
133 – No. 7 Sam Latona vs Jace Palmer
141 – No. 11 Tom Crook or Collin Gerardi vs No. 12 Lachlan McNeil
149 – No. 8 Caleb Henson vs No. 27 Zach Sherman or Wil Guida or Jayden Scott
157 – No. 5 Bryce Andonian vs No. 3 Austin O'Connor
165 – No. 27 Connor Brady vs Joey Mazzara or Gino Esposito
174 – No. 3 Mekhi Lewis vs No. 14 Clay Lautt or Michael Goldfede
184 – No. 7 Hunter Bolen vs No. 11 Gavin Kane
197 – No. 22 Andy Smith vs Max Shaw or Cade Lautt
285 – No. 20 Hunter Catka vs Brandon Witman or Aydin Guttridge
#16 Pittsburgh at #7 North Carolina State
The biggest dual this weekend will go down in Raleigh on Friday night. Pittsburgh enters Reynolds Coliseum undefeated in the ACC and can all but lock up the title with a win over the Wolfpack. NC State is looking to keep themselves in the running for another ACC dual title; if they are able to top the Panthers, they could earn a share of the ACC title. The conference recognizes multiple champions if teams have the same record in the conference, regardless of head-to-head results.
This dual is intriguing because there are multiple matchups that I would consider toss-ups, so momentum may play a huge role in this dual. We could see as many as eight ranked versus ranked matchups, including top-10 matchups at 141 and 197. This dual could just as easily be a 5/5 split as it could be a 7/3 runaway for either team. It’s going to be a fun one to watch.
125: #32 Colton Camacho vs #27 Jarrett Trombley
The first toss-up match. Trombley is 3-0 in the ACC and has been looking solid of late. Camacho has really come on in the second half of the season--he is 2-1 in the conference, losing in sudden victory to Jack Wagner last week. This one could easily go either direction and if they start at 125 could go a long way to establishing some momentum.
133: #6 Micky Phillippi vs #20 Kai Orine
Micky Phillippi has been one of the most consistent performers in the country over his time in Pittsburgh. He enters at 11-1 on the year and 3-0 in the ACC. Orine has looked stronger in the second half of the season and sits at 10-6 and 2-1 in the ACC with a close loss to Sam Latona. Orine has gotten more offensive, but he will have to open up and put together multiple attacks to be able to get through the top-tier defense of Phillippi.
141: #3 Cole Matthews vs #4 Ryan Jack
This might be the match of the night across all duals. Both guys have a stout defense and impressive counter offense and have established a dangerous top game. I would expect a low-scoring match here (check out the number of one-takedown matches that Matthews has won over the past two years). Jack has increased his offensive output on his feet and on the mat, but Matthews is notoriously difficult to score on. This one is going to be a chess match and a lot of fun to watch from the tactical perspective.
149: #28 Tyler Badgett vs #17 Jackson Arrington
Tyler Badgett has wrestled well since taking over the starting spot full-time and comes in at 15-9 and 1-2 in the conference. The true freshman Jackson Arrington opened his year with one of the most difficult schedules possible, facing multiple All-Americans to start the year. He has improved with every outing and has looked very solid in the back half of the season. He is 17-6 on the year and 2-1 in the ACC with a loss to Caleb Henson. I’d lean toward Arrington with him having a much higher offensive output, he will put points on the board at some point and I could see Badgett struggling to break through his defense.
157: Dazjon Casto or Jared Keslar vs #7 Ed Scott
Coming into the year, this was a potential top-10 matchup, but Dazjon Casto struggled to start the year. He has shown some growth and has been wrestling better, but is coming off an injury as well. Keslar wrestled last weekend and had the unfortunate task of facing Austin O’Connor. Ed Scott has looked as good as ever. He started the year more slowly, but has really found his groove and has been wrestling well. He is 14-5 on the year, with four of those losses coming in the first half of the season; his only loss in 2023 is to Bryce Andonian. Ed is known for big moves and has huge bonus point potential--I think he’ll be looking for it here to help the Wolfpack as much as he can.
165: #24 Holden Heller vs #26 Matty Singleton or Derek Fields
This one is another big toss-up match. I think whoever ends up getting the start for the Wolfpack would have a similar ranking, so both potential matchups tonight are between pretty evenly-matched guys at 165. Singleton is 8-5 on the season, with four of those losses coming at 174; he holds a win over Conor Brady in his only ACC dual match. Fields is 0-1 in the ACC with a loss to Justin McCoy. Luke Ahrberg got the start, and the win, against Duke at 165. Heller has been solid this season since transferring from Hofstra; he enters at 10-5 and is undefeated in the ACC.
174: Luca Augustine vs #29 Alex Faison
This is another big toss-up match. Faison has looked good for the Wolfpack since taking over the full-time role at 174; he comes in at 13-6 overall and 2-1 in the ACC with a win over Hudson Stewart and a win by forfeit from Duke and a loss to Mekhi Lewis. Luca Augustine has been on an absolute tear in the back half of the season, and notched two huge wins last weekend with a decision over MJ Gaitan in a tight dual with Iowa State, and knocking off then #8 Clay Lautt in sudden victory. Augustine is 12-7 overall and 2-1 in the ACC with wins over Lautt and Vic Marcelli and a loss to Mekhi Lewis. These two are very evenly matched and this match could be huge in this dual.
184: #17 Reece Heller vs #3 Trent Hidlay
Reece Heller has had a phenomenal season for Pitt, including a Midlands title and a huge win over Hunter Bolen by defensive fall. He is 15-5 overall and 1-2 in the ACC with a win over Bolen and losses to Gavin Kane and Neil Antrassian. Hidlay has been a monster all year. He enters at 16-1 with 11 bonus point wins, and his lone blemish is a loss to Parker Keckeisen, who he also holds a win over this season. Hidlay is 2-0 in the ACC with a 21-9 major over Antrassian and a sudden victory win over Bolen. 184 is a deep weight in the ACC but Hidlay seems to have separated himself from the crowd--with the exception of his consistently close matches with Bolen.
197: #1 Nino Bonaccorsi vs #8 Isaac Trumble
This will be a fun one. Nino is undefeated on the year and has looked as good as he ever has. He is 12-0 on the year and is coming off a great win over Yonger Bastida in the Iowa State dual. No one has been able to stop Nino’s offense--he has at least one takedown in every match this year. Trumble has looked excellent all year as well, he has shown growth on his feet and on the mat and is an incredibly dangerous pinner with seven on the year. While in most matchups, Nino has a reach advantage, Trumble may be one of the only wrestlers in the country who is “longer” at 197 than Bonaccorsi. Trumble is 16-2 on the year and 2-1 in the ACC with wins over Michael Battista and Brayden Ray and a last-second takedown loss to Andy Smith. Circle this one as a must-watch as well.
285: #10 Dayton Pitzer or Jake Slinger vs #12 Owen Trephan
The ongoing question of whether Coach Gavin will pull the redshirt of Dayton Pitzer will add another chapter tonight. This will be the fifth and final appearance that Pitzer can make and still maintain his redshirt--but with the potential ACC dual title on the line, I fully expect to see Pitzer tonight. Pitzer is 7-2 on the season and 2-0 in the ACC with wins over Hunter Catka and Brandon Whitman. He is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Sam Schuyler in the Iowa State dual; the final match ended with ISU tying the Panthers and winning on criteria by match points. Trephan has looked excellent for the Wolfpack and comes in at 17-3 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. Don’t overlook how good Trephan is--he has shown that he can go with anyone in the country and he has the experience edge over Pitzer. In a perfect world, the dual would come down to this match…let’s hope it does.