NC State 157 lber Ed Scott (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
First, an apology. It’s been one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get the to-do list checked off. I finished my recap of last week’s action but never got it sent to the man in charge to publish. Mea culpa.
So, this week will be a mix of a recap and a look forward to Friday's action.
We have a few big-picture happenings from last week that have a major bearing on how the conference shakes out. Pitt went into Raleigh undefeated in the ACC and had the chance to effectively run away with the dual title but the reigning ACC champion Wolfpack stood in the way. NC State dominated the dual and won 7 of 10 matches to set up a potential 3-way tie for the dual title. The Hokies also traveled to North Carolina and controlled their match against the Tar Heels, winning 8 of 10 matches. The final dual pitted Duke and Virginia with both teams looking for their first conference win. Virginia dominated on senior night en route to a 45-3 dual win and giving the team some much-needed momentum.
We also had several key individual matches that went down. The biggest on the list was Austin O’Connor taking on Bryce Andonian--both were undefeated going in and the potential 1-seed for the ACC tournament was on the line. O’Connor put on an absolute clinic on how to wrestle Andonian. He pushed with his attacks and finished cleanly to block any counters; he also didn’t stay in the upper body ties where Andonian is so dangerous. O’Connor won by major--the largest point spread in the series between the two. All that being said…these two will likely meet again, and Robie and company will have Andonian prepared for the rematch.
Also in the dual, Eddie Ventresca, who will be the starter moving forward, upset Jack Wagner at 125. In a rematch from early in the season, Lachlan McNeil avenged his loss to Tom Crook with a major decision in the dual. In the final ranked matchup, Hunter Bolen took a dominating 10-3 decision over Gavin Kane.
In Raleigh, Nino Bonaccorsi won in sudden victory over Isaac Trumble in a match with a wildly-entertaining finish and some incredible scrambles from the 197-pounders. Also in that dual, Cole Matthews won by a decision over Ryan Jack in a top-5 battle. Owen Trephan upset Dayton Pitzer at 285 and Kai Orine knocked off Micky Phillippi by riding time in tiebreakers to close out the night for the Wolfpack.
Moving into this week we have the big storyline of three teams--Pitt, NC State and Virginia Tech--all looking to earn a share of the ACC dual title. With wins, they will all be 4-1 in conference--Virginia Tech beat NC State, NC State beat Pitt, Pitt beat Virginia Tech. The ACC recognizes multiple dual champs, without regard to head-to-head wins, so we won’t have to get down to Criteria H for this one. The other big thing we are watching is who will position themselves for top seeds at the ACC tournament in two weeks. There have been a lot of upsets in the past few weeks, so why not add more chaos this week?
Duke at #16 Pittsburgh
The Blue Devils will head to Pittsburgh for a Saturday afternoon tilt with the Panthers. With a win, Pitt will secure a share of the ACC dual title. The dual will serve as senior night for the Panthers; Micky Phillippi, Nicholas Meglino, Dazjon Casto, Nino Bonaccorsi and Jake Slinger will be recognized before the dual. There will be no ranked-versus-ranked matchups in this dual, but keep an eye on 285. Jonah Neiesenbaum enters the dual undefeated in the conference and is looking to lock up a #1 seed for the ACC tournament. Pitt is looking to rebound from a loss to NC State and grab some momentum moving into the postseason.
125: Colton Camacho vs Ethan Grimminger
133: #10 Micky Phillippi vs Logan Agin
141: #3 Cole Matthews vs Christian Colman
149: #29 Tyler Badgett vs Patrick Rowland
157: Dazjon Casto vs Logan Ferrero
165: #22 Holden Heller vs Gabe Dinette
174: #33 Luca Augustine vs OPEN
184: #17 Reece Heller vs Luke Chakonis
197: #1 Nino Bonaccorsi vs Vincent Baker
285: Jake Slinger vs #18 Jonah Neisenbaum
Virginia at #7 Virginia Tech
The Commonwealth Clash, mat edition, will go down on Friday night in Blacksburg. Virginia is coming off their first ACC win and are looking to build on the momentum from a great night in Charlottesville. The Hokies are looking to capture a share of the ACC dual title with a win and keep their winning streak over the Hoos alive. The Hokies will honor their senior class tonight--this class has played a major role in the growth of the program; Hunter Bolen, Mekhi Lewis, Collin Gerardi, Jordan Florence, Brandon Wittenberg, and Drew Nicholson will all be honored tonight.
There will be a few interesting matches to watch in this one tonight:
149: This will pit ranked versus ranked with Caleb Henson and Jarod Verkleeren. Henson is coming off a down performance--by his impressive metrics thus far--against UNC last week. Verkleeren is fresh off of one of his best offensive displays since he’s been at UVA. This could be a fun one.
157: Jake Keating came into the season with a top-15 ranking but has struggled through injuries this year. He seems to be getting back to that form we expected and looked phenomenal last week--best he has looked all season. He will take on Bryce Andonian who is coming off his first loss of the year to Austin O’Connor. I would expect to see a higher offensive output from Andonian tonight, it will be a matter of whether Keating can use his strong counter-offense game to capitalize.
165: Sneaky good matchup here. Brady is very difficult to score on and McCoy has a high attack rate. McCoy could blow this open, or Brady could shut him down completely as he has done to some of the best in the country.
184: I’ve been saying all year that 184 is a minefield in the ACC. This match has that potential as well. Bolen is the obvious favorite, but Antrassian is dangerous. This one will have a lot of seeding implications.
197: Two Virginia natives getting after it in the Commonwealth Clash, you’ve gotta love it. This could be a great match too. Smith has had a roller coaster year, with some massive upsets and some head-scratching losses. Battista is rounding into form at the end of the season and has looked great the last few weeks.
125 – No. 23 Eddie Ventresca vs Patrick McCormick
133 – No. 6 Sam Latona vs Marlon Yarbrough II
141 – No. 12 Tom Crook or Collin Gerardi vs Dylan Cedeno
149 – No. 8 Caleb Henson vs No. 26 Jarod Verkleeren
157 – No. 5 Bryce Andonian vs Jake Keating
165 – No. 27 Connor Brady vs No. 17 Justin McCoy
174 – No. 3 Mekhi Lewis vs Vic Marcelli
184 – No. 7 Hunter Bolen vs No. 16 Neil Antrassian
197 – No. 22 Andy Smith vs No. 25 Michael Battista
285 – No. 19 Hunter Catka vs Ethan Weatherspoon
#8 North Carolina State at #27 North Carolina
The final rivalry dual will play out in Chapel Hill on Friday night with the Wolfpack looking to grab a share of the ACC dual title with a win over the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels enter on a losing skid, having dropped their last two after opening ACC competition 2-0. The Wolfpack have reeled off three straight after an opening night loss to Virginia Tech.
Looking at the probables for tonight, we have a whole lot of “OR” on both sides of the lineup--so I’m not sure what matchups we will actually get to see. But, there are some great potential matches.
125: This match will have big seeding implications if Trombley gets the go. Trombley is coming off a big win over Camacho and is 4-0, while Wagner just took his first conference loss to Ventresca to move to 3-1.
141: Lachlan McNeil has been wrestling at the level I hoped he would be at all season. He really seems to be figuring things out at the right time. Jack just took his first loss in a battle with Cole Matthews. Both of them are 3-1 in conference and Jack holds a 3-1 win over McNeil last season.
157: Put this in bold on the matches I hope we see. Austin O’Connor dominated Bryce Andonian last week and remains undefeated. Scott had a big loss to Andonian but otherwise has looked amazing in the second half of the season. Major fireworks potential here.
No. 27 North Carolina vs. No. 8 NC State
125: No. 24 Jack Wagner vs. No. 22 Jarrett Trombley or Troy Hohman
133: Jace Palmer vs. No. 18 Kai Orine or Jacob Cox
141: No. 9 Lachlan McNeil vs. No. 6 Ryan Jack
149: No. 28 Zach Sherman or Wil Guida vs. No. 17 Jackson Arrington or Finn Solomon
157: No. 2 Austin O'Connor vs. No. 7 Ed Scott or Luke Ahrberg
165: Joey Mazzara or Gino Esposito vs. Derek Fields or No. 26 Matty Singleton
174: No. 12 Clay Lautt or Michael Goldfeder vs. No. 28 Alex Faison or Brock DelSignore
184: No. 11 Gavin Kane vs. No. 3 Trent Hidlay or Dylan Fishback
197: Max Shaw or Cade Lautt vs. No. 8 Isaac Trumble or Christian Knop
HWT: Aydin Guttridge or Brandon Whitman vs. No. 11 Owen Trephan or Tyrie Houghton