Pittsburgh heavyweight Jake Slinger (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Two duals on Sunday proved to be quite entertaining and led to close wins from Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh was on the road at Columbia and Virginia Tech hosted Missouri to open their home slate.
The Panthers had to fight to win their fourth straight dual, and third straight on the road. They traded matches with Columbia for the first seven bouts before closing the dual with three straight wins to take the one-point team win. #30 Colton Camacho dropped a tight decision to Nick Babin, followed by a 2-0 win for #9 Micky Phillippi. At 141, the Panthers did not send out a wrestler and gave up a big six-point forfeit to Columbia; #1 Cole Matthews did not wrestle in either match this weekend, Emory Taylor took the mat on Friday at Brown.
At 149, Tyler Badgett picked up his third-straight win with a 5-0 decision over Danny Fongaro. The match at 157 was a bit of an anomaly. #21 Dazjon Casto was completely dominating the match and was up 14-1 in the third period; when he drove in for the shot to finish out the tech fall, Alvan was able to keep an overhook and roll Casto through to his back. Casto fought on the edge and punched through as the ref called the pin; I would have loved to see another angle of this exchange. That put the Panthers down 12-6 going into the biggest matchup of the dual.
Holden Heller bounced back in a big way from a sudden victory loss last week to extend his season record to 5-1 over #12 Josh Ogunsanya. After a scoreless first, Heller got an escape early in the second and scored a takedown of a pretty duckunder off a reshot, then rode out the period. The third period was a flurry of solid defense from Heller as Ogunsanya tried to get back in the match. He was able to get a late takedown to close the gap to 3-2, but Heller fought off a last-second attack to take the match 4-2. Heller wrestled an incredible match and did everything he needed to do to beat a very tough Ogunsanya.
At 174, #33 Luca Augustine struggled to get his offense going and dropped a 3-2 decision to a scrappy Lenox Wolak. The Panthers were looking at an 18-9 deficit going into the final three matches. James Lledo came up big in a very entertaining match; they traded takedowns and escapes as both guys let it fly. Lledo was down 7-4 going into the third, but showed off his gas tank, racking up an escape, two takedowns and a stalling point to take the 10-9 decision. The captain came through for the Panthers at 197, with #3 Nino Bonaccorsi dominating his way to a 15-2 major decision as he was giving it all he had to get to the tech fall. Going into the last match, Pitt was down 18-16. Jake Slinger slammed the door for the Panthers, controlling the match and earning a 6-2 decision to take the dual 19-18.
It wasn't the prettiest win for Pitt, but I loved to see how they responded to adversity and fought to take the close win.
Pitt 19 Columbia 18
125: Nick Babin (Columbia) dec. #30 Colton Camacho (Pitt), 4-2
133: #9 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) dec. Angelo Rini (Columbia), 2-0
141: #27 Matt Kazimir (Columbia) wins by forfeit
149: Tyler Badgett (Pitt) dec. Danny Fongaro (Columbia), 5-0
157: Cesar Alvan (Columbia) pins #21 Dazjon Casto (Pitt), 5:48
165: #17 Holden Heller (Pitt) dec. #12 Joshua Ogunsanya (Columbia), 4-2
174: Lennox Wolak (Columbia) dec. #33 Luca Augustine (Pitt), 3-2
184: James Lledo (Pitt) dec. Jack Wehmeyer (Columbia), 10-9
197: #3 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) maj. dec. Javen Jovero (Columbia), 15-2
285: Jake Slinger (Pitt) dec. Danny Conley (Columbia), 6-2
#15 Virginia Tech
The Hokies opened up their home slate with a tough #6 Missouri team. We knew it was going to be a great dual, and it very much lived up to the hype. I said that the Hokies had a path to victory if they won the matches they should win, pick up an upset and find a bonus point somewhere. They took a slightly different path with a lineup change at 157, but ended the night with a 17-15 win.
Cooper Flynn, who has been in a tightly contested battle with #17 Eddie Ventresca for the starting spot at 125, got the nod to start the dual. He looked fantastic on his feet and on top; he picked up five takedowns and over three minutes of riding time to open the dual with a 13-3 major decision. #12 Sam Latona took the momentum into the next match and it looked a lot closer on the scoreboard than it did on the mat. Latona got two takedowns and a reversal to have a 6-2 lead before giving up a late takedown to get the 6-4 decision.
The next two matches were tough tests for the Hokies; both featured true freshmen against top-10 opponents. #15 Tom Crook had his worst performance of the year against a very tough opponent. He was able to hold #6 Allan Hart to a decision, but didn't seem to have the pop he has had in his other matches this season; I don't anticipate this will be an ongoing issue with what we have seen so far from Tampa Tom.
We had one of the best matches of the night at 149 between #9 Brock Mauller and #12 Caleb Henson. Mauller picked up an early takedown in the first, but Henson was able to add one of his own late in the first to go up 3-2. Mauller got an escape early in the second to tie it up with the only points scored that period. Henson got a quick escape in the third, but Mauller followed it with a beautiful double leg; Henson added another escape to tie it at 5 with a minute left. Henson got in on a low-level single at 38 seconds, it seemed like it should be a stalemate as Mauller sprawled out for 15 seconds, but the ref let it play out. In the ensuing scramble, Mauller was able to kick out and hop over for the winning takedown at the buzzer.
At 157 we expected to see Clayton Ulrey and #13 Jarrett Jacques, but instead, Mizzou sent out Logan Gioffre. We did not receive any clarification on the status of Jacques. Gioffre is the older brother of Jack and Michael, who wrestle at UVA. So instead of a #5 Bryce Andonian versus Jacques, we got a very scrappy match between solid backups for both teams and it proved to be a critical point in the dual. Ulrey showed some stellar defense and scored on a very nice reshot for the only takedown of the match in the 3-2 decision.
The next two matches featured NCAA champs with #1 Keegan O'Toole the reigning champ at 165 and #3 Mekhi Lewis an NCAA champ and two-time finalist competing at 174 lbs.
#22 Connor Brady wrestled a great match and deserves a lot of credit. Keegan O'Toole is an incredibly dangerous wrestler and gets a lot of bonus points for the Tigers. Brady showcased his excellent defense--and some offense of his own--and held O'Toole to an 8-4 decision. At 174, we saw #3 Mekhi Lewis face a very stingy #11 Peyton Mocco. Lewis scored the lone takedown (and had another taken off the board) and allowed only escapes for Mocco in the 3-2 win.
#8 Hunter Bolen showed Cassell Coliseum that he is back and on a mission to get on the podium again. I have been impressed by Bolen all year and I'm very happy to see him have the edge back that he seemed to be missing last year. Bolen picked up two takedowns in the first, and another in the second after starting the period with a strong ride. He got a quick escape in the third and started chasing the bonus point. Bolen added a takedown on the edge and another with 30 seconds left in the 3rd to take a 13-3 major decision.
The Hokies went into the final two matches up 17-9 with Mizzou favored in the final two matches, with two top-10 wrestlers left to wrestle. #21 Andy Smith couldn't get to any of his own offense, but was able to conserve important team points in holding #1 Rocky Elam to a 7-0 decision. A similar story at 285, #22 Hunter Catka dropped a 4-2 decision to #8 Zach Elam, but didn't give up the bonus points that the Tigers would have needed to pull out the dual.
For the second season in a row, the Hokies knocked off the higher-ranked Tigers. I was very impressed with the overall approach by the Hokies. All of the guys knew exactly what they needed to do for their match and for the team, and they took care of business. We often only look at the win column to see who did well in a dual; but for this one, in particular, the effort by the wrestlers on both sides of the win column made this team win possible. The wins were split 5-5 but the Hokies didn't surrender a single bonus point to any of the top 10 wrestlers that got the win and that made the difference in this dual.
Virginia Tech 17 Missouri 15
125 â€“ Cooper Flynn MAJ DEC Peyton Moore, 13-3
133 â€“ No. 12 Sam Latona DEC No. 26 Connor Brown, 6-4
141 â€“ No. 6 Allan Hart DEC No. 15 Tom Crook, 8-2
149 â€“ No. 9 Brock Mauller DEC No. 12 Caleb Henson, 7-5
157 â€“ Clayton Ulrey DEC Logan Gioffre, 3-2
165 â€“ No. 1 Keegan O'Toole DEC No. 22 Connor Brady, 8-4
174 â€“ No. 3 Mekhi Lewis DEC No. 11 Peyton Mocco, 3-2
184 â€“ No. 8 Hunter Bolen MAJ DEC No. 23 Sean Harman, 13-3
197 â€“ No. 1 Rocky Elam DEC No. 21 Andy Smith, 7-0
285 â€“ No. 8 Zach Elam DEC No. 22 Hunter Catka, 4-2