(photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
We have our first full-slate Friday night of ACC duals this week and I am excited. I'll be in Chapel Hill to see the North Carolina-Pittsburgh dual and I'll be trying to keep up with the other conference action!
Virginia Tech hosts the Blue Devils and are looking to make it two-in-a-row after beating Pitt last week. We should see the full lineup for the Hokies for the first time since November. Big ones to note: Finesilver-Andonian III and Finesilver-Lewis. Virginia travels to Raleigh to try to knock off #4 NC State and make a massive statement on the road. There are a few awesome matchups in this one to keep an eye on--Keating-Scott, McCoy-Bullard and Aiello-Trumble all have my full attention. In the spotlight dual that will get the Rock Harrison/Shawn Kinney treatment, we have Pitt making the long drive down to Chapel Hill. Some good ones to note here--Matthews-Clarke, Cleary-O'Connor and Harvey-Kane.
Duke at #10 Virginia Tech
125: Logan Agin vs #20 Sam Latona
Latona is coming off a big win over #32 Gage Curry last week in Pittsburgh, while Agin has started 0-2 in ACC competition. I've liked what I've seen from Latona this half of the season; he seems to be handling the cut well and has been much more aggressive and offensive. Great to see him rounding back into form.
133: Drake Doolittle vs. #5 Korbin Myers
Myers is also coming off a big win over #7 Micky Phillippi last week and facing Doolittle, who has also started 0-2 in ACC competition. The match last week was very gritty and probably the toughest mental match he has had this season and he handled it very well.
141: Parker Decker vs. #22 Collin Gerardi
Gerardi fell to a red hot #18 Cole Matthews last week against the Panthers, but it was very close for the majority of the match. Gerardi is a very stingy defensive wrestler and incredibly difficult to score on. When he can get some offense to go with that in a match, he'll usually come out on top. Decker wrestled #7 Kizhan Clarke closely in the opening dual, but Duke didn't send anyone out last week against NC State at 141, so not sure what we'll see here.
149: #14 Josh Finesilver vs. #5 Bryce Andonian
This match should have some fireworks. Both of these guys will have the ability to let loose and throw points on the board. Andonian has been out much of the second half of the season, but hopefully will be back for this match. He is 4-1 on the year with three falls--his only loss was to #1 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State. Finesilver has gone 1-1 in arguably the deepest weight in the ACC. He had a sudden victory win over Zach Sherman and dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to Tariq Wilson on a takedown with 10 seconds left in the match last week. Both of these guys can wrestle with anyone and aren't afraid to take risks to score points. Really looking forward to this one.
157: Wade Unger vs. #21 Connor Brady
Unger has impressed me in his two ACC losses. He has wrestled very hard and been aggressive against tough competition. He held Austin O'Connor to a close match and scored the first two takedowns on Ed Scott last week, before Scott went on a point-scoring spree. Brady dropped a sudden victory loss to Elijah Cleary at Pitt but wrestled well. He was in on multiple shots but was unable to finish on a very defensively tough Cleary.
165: Gabe Dinette vs. Clayton Ulrey
Both guys here are coming off losses and looking to pick up their first ACC win. Dinette is 0-2 with losses to Sonny Santiago of UNC and Thomas Bullard of NC State. Ulrey lost to Jake Wentzel from Pitt last week. This could be a good matchup--but it will depend on which version of Dinette we see; I was really impressed with him midseason when he seemed to be breaking through and showing a lot more offensive output; I'd like to see that again. Ulrey has been improving all season long and is on the cusp of being ranked.
174: #15 Matt Finesilver vs. #3 Mekhi Lewis
Finesilver enters this match at 22-4, with two straight losses coming to ACC foes #13 Clay Lautt and #4 Hayden Hidlay. Now he gets to face #3 Mekhi Lewis. 174 in the ACC is no joke. Lewis picked up his first conference win last week with a tech fall over James Lledo of Pitt. This will be their first meeting, since they have never been at the same weight. This match could have fireworks or could be a defensive battle; we'll see which side of the coin it lands on!
184: Vince Baker vs. #10 Hunter Bolen
Baker comes in 0-2 in the ACC and Bolen picked up a first-period pin over #32 Gregg Harvey last week. Bolen was coming off an extended absence and looked phenomenal in his first match back.
197: Kaden Russell vs. #32 Dakota Howard
This is a sneaky-fun match with some potential for points to get flying. Both of these guys are high output, have explosive finishes on their shots and have great gas tanks. Howard fell to #8 Nino Bonaccorsi last week and Russell is 0-2 with losses to #29 Max Shaw and #20 Isaac Trumble. Russell holds a head-to-head win over Howard with a pin in 2019.
285: Jonah Niesenbaum vs #14 Nathan Traxler
Traxler has been wrestling incredibly well all year and seems to be getting better every match. He had a 12-0 major over a tough Jake Slinger last week. Niesenbaum is 1-1 in ACC competition with a win over Brandon Whitman and a loss to Tyrie Houghton.
Virginia at #4 NC State
125: Patrick McCormick vs. #14 Jakob Camacho
McCormick is coming off a big sudden victory win over Spencer Moore that tied the dual for the Hoos. Camacho started slow last week, against Agin, but was able to pour on the points late and pick up a third-period pin. Camacho has been more consistent than McCormick this season, but Patch has shown that he can't be counted out of any match, so this could be a fun one. Camacho holds a 1-0 lead head to head.
133: #22 Brandon Courtney vs. #15 Kai Orine/Jarrett Trombley
Courtney was named ACC Wrestler of the Week after two impressive wins against North Carolina. He knocked off then-#10 Jaime Hernandez in sudden victory to open the dual, then ended the evening with a sudden victory over now-#23 Joe Heilmann in an extra match. I'm not sure if we'll see Orine, who is 11-1 on the year and 2-0 in ACC competition or Jarrett Trombley, who is 10-2, as they are still trying to solidify their starter for the postseason.
141: Dylan Cedeno vs. #24 Ryan Jack
Cedeno dropped a close match to #6 Kizhan Clarke last week and Ryan Jack received a forfeit, so he is yet to wrestle an ACC match. Cedeno is now 2-3 and has missed much of the season but looked strong in his match last week. Jack has been impressive all year and is looking to make a statement.
149: #30 Jarod Verkleeren vs #3 Tariq Wilson
Verkleeren is coming off a tough loss to #20 Zach Sherman in the UNC dual. He came in on a 10-match winning streak and didn't seem to wrestle his best match against Sherman, who wrestled one of his best matches of the year and has some great momentum right now. Wilson is coming off a close win over #14 Josh Finesilver last week against Duke. He was down 3-2 late in the third and was able to get a takedown and ride out to get the win. I'm guessing we'll see a more active Tariq in this match.
157: #29 Jake Keating vs. #10 Ed Scott
Scott picked up a tech fall over Wade Unger to get his first ACC win last week. Keating is coming off a very well-wrestled match against #6 Austin O'Connor. AOC won 7-4, but Keating gave him a fight and picked up a takedown in the third to have a late lead before O'Connor broke off two takedowns to get the win. This will be interesting as both of them are taller 157 pounders who use their length well.
165: #17 Justin McCoy vs. #21 Thomas Bullard
McCoy comes in 11-0 and picked up his first ACC win over Sonny Santiago last week after being out for the Pitt dual. He will get a defensive test from Bullard, who enters with a 14-4 record and a win over Gabe Dinette last week. Bullard has shown the tendency to wrestle to the level of his competition at times, so this match should push us to see the best version of Bullard. This match could be a good chance for McCoy to show he is ready to battle Jake Wentzel for 165 supremacy in the ACC.
174: Justin Phillips vs. #4 Hayden Hidlay
Phillips has been a quiet warrior this year for the Hoos. He put up a good fight, but lost last week 8-2 to #13 Clay Lautt. Hidlay's resume speaks for itself. He is a monster to match up with at any weight, but has looked very impressive since his move up to 174. He is 1-0 in ACC competition with a 5-2 decision over #15 Matt Finesilver to pick up his 100th victory last week.
184: #25 Michael Battista vs. #3 Trent Hidlay
Battista had been on an amazing run to start the season at 12-1 before running into the buzzsaw of Gavin Kane last week. I will give Kane full credit for wrestling as well as he did--and he has had an amazing season so far as well--but the Battista we saw last week didn't look the same as what we have seen from him all season. I'm hopeful that we see him at full strength this week and he'll need it to face the returning NCAA finalist. Hidlay comes in at 11-0 with an astonishing 90% BONUS rate. He is coming off a quick pin of Vince Baker last week to be 1-0 in the ACC.
197: #13 Jay Aiello vs. #20 Isaac Trumble
We've got another fun one here. Aiello comes in at 8-1 with his only loss to #8 Nino Bonaccorsi and picked up a major decision last week over #29 Max Shaw. Trumble is 15-3 and had a hard-fought 2-1 win over Kaden Russell last week. This is a battle of contrasting styles and experience in the 6th year Aiello versus youth in the 2nd year Trumble.
285: #31 Quinn Miller vs. #26 Tyrie Houghton
This could be one of the more interesting matches in the dual. Miller has had a good year but was sidelined for a stretch to start the second half of the season. He didn't look his usual self when he lost to Jake Slinger in the Pitt dual, but credit to Slinger for wrestling a great match. Houghton has been battling for the starting spot with Owen Trephan and Deonte Wilson and looks to be getting all the ACC reps. Miller is 1-1 in the ACC with a loss to Slinger and a win over Brandon Whitman from UNC; Houghton is 1-0 coming off a win over Jonah Niesenbaum of Duke.
#23 Pittsburgh at #18 North Carolina
125: #31 Gage Curry vs. Spencer Moore
Moore has shown improvement every time out and has wrestled well in his ACC matches; he is 1-1 with a win over Logan Agin and a sudden victory loss to Patrick McCormick last week. Curry has been a consistent force for the Panthers this year and is coming in at 1-1 with a win over Patrick McCormick and a loss to Sam Latona.
133: #7 Micky Phillippi vs #23 Joe Heilmann
Heilmann had been fighting for the starting spot and had filled in admirably while Jaime Hernandez was injured. It looks like the spot will be all Heilmann moving forward. He brings in a 15-4 record and doesn't have any official ACC matches, but lost to Brian Courtney in sudden victory last week in an ECM. Phillippi has put together another solid season and has split his results in ACC competition so far; he took a win over Trey Lane of UVA and lost a battle to Korbin Myers last week. This should be a fun one to watch.
141: #17 Cole Matthews vs. #6 Kizhan Clarke
I have this match circled as the match I am most looking forward to this dual. Clarke is undefeated on the season and has ACC wins over Dylan Cedeno and Parker Decker. He has shown some amazing maturity on the mat and has done what he needs to do to win matches and seems unstoppable on double legs in the third period. Matthews has been a monster for the Panthers this year. He is 11-2 with ACC wins over Collin Gerardi and Evan Buchanan and is on a seven-match winning streak. Both of these guys are tough to score on and have explosive moments that lead to a lot of points. Really looking forward to this one.
149: Luke Kemerer vs #20 Zach Sherman
Sherman had one of the toughest schedules in the country the first half of the season and took some lumps, but he has had a resurgent second half of the season. He is 1-1 in the conference with a win over Jarod Verkleeren last week in a match that he wrestled incredibly well, and a sudden victory loss to #14 Josh Finesilver in an absolute battle between the two to start the conference season. Kemerer has had a rough go in the ACC with losses to Jarod Verkleeren and Sam Hillegas.
157: #19 Elijah Cleary vs. #6 Austin O'Connor
Cleary has had an impressive season for the Panthers; he comes in at 10-4 and is 2-0 in the ACC with wins over Jon Errico of UVA and a sudden victory win over #23 Connor Brady last week in the Virginia Tech dual. O'Connor has continued to show his dominance and ability to put matches away since his move up to 157. His lone loss is to #5 Peyton Robb by decision in an early dual against Nebraska. He has looked great in conference with wins over Wade Unger and Jake Keating. O'Connor slammed the door on Keating last week in the third period as Keating took an early lead in the match.
165: #14 Jake Wentzel vs. Sonny Santiago
Santiago has improved throughout the year and has looked impressive in his ACC matches; he has a win over Gabe Dinette and wrestled a tough Justin McCoy to a decision last week against UVA. Wentzel seems to have returned to form as a punishing top wrestler and someone who is able to assert control in most matches. He comes in at 11-4 and 2-0 in the ACC with wins over Clayton Ulrey and Jake Keating, who bumped up in the Pitt dual.
174: James Lledo vs. #13 Clay Lautt
Lledo has wrestled well since dropping to 174, but comes in at 0-2 in conference with losses to Justin Phillips and Mekhi Lewis. Lautt has wrestled incredibly well after a slower start to the year and is riding a seven-match winning streak, including ACC wins over Justin Phillips and Matt Finesilver.
184: #31 Gregg Harvey vs. #21 Gavin Kane
After a great start to the year, Harvey has had a rough go in conference competition with losses to Michael Battista and a pin from Hunter Bolen. Kane has been on a tear this year after solidifying his spot at 184. He is 13-2 with ACC wins over Vince Baker and an incredibly dominating win over a very-tough Michael Battista.
197: #7 Nino Bonaccorsi vs #29 Max Shaw
Nino has continued to be a picture of consistency. He is 10-2 with close losses to #6 Greg Bulsak and #10 Patrick Brucki. He is averaging slightly over 10 points per match and is 2-0 in the conference with wins over #32 Dakota Howard and #13 Jay Aiello. After a slow start to the season, Shaw has looked great, winning eight-in-a-row before his loss to Aiello last week; he has a conference win over Kaden Russell.
285: Jake Slinger vs. Brandon Whitman
There is a very real possibility this dual comes down to the heavyweights to decide it. Slinger comes in at 10-10, with an ACC win over Quinn Miller and a loss to Nathan Traxler. He has had some huge wins for the Panthers to put duals away this year. Whitman also enters at 10-10 but is winless in the ACC with losses to Miller and Jonah Niesebaum. Whitman holds the head-to-head win over Slinger from the dual last year.