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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Robbie's 2023-24 ACC Awards

    Another year is in the books for the ACC, and it was another strong season for the conference. There were some heartbreaking finishes at the NCAAs that kept the All-American total lower than expected, but there were some huge triumphs as well. Let’s take a look at our 3rd Annual ACC Postseason Awards. 

    Redshirt of the Year: Isaac Trumble, NC State

    There were several good options for this award this year from across the conference. Vince Robinson from NC State, Rafael Hipolito Jimmy Mullen from Virginia Tech, and Gable Porter from UVA all had strong showings with some big wins throughout the season. Ultimately, Isaac Trumble’s dominant performance at Midlands and his undefeated record while moving up a weight class earns him the honors as the Redshirt of the Year.

    Coach of the Year: Tony Robie, Virginia Tech

    While the Hokies may not have won the ACC title, they continued their impressive performance streak at the NCAAs. Caleb Henson was crowned as an NCAA Champion and the Hokies added another year to their now 11-year streak of having three or more All-Americans. The Hokies had a 9-4 dual record with losses to top-10 dual teams in Ohio State, Cornell, Mizzou, and NC State. 

    BONUS Machine: Trent Hidlay, NC State

    Hidlay made it his mission to put on a show for the fans this season, and he delivered. He ran up a 28-1 record on his way to an NCAA Finals appearance with an impressive 79% bonus rate. He earned four major decisions, 15 tech falls, and four wins by pinfall to make 23 of his 28 wins by BONUS.  

    Freshman of the Year: TJ Stewart, Virginia Tech

    The second-half run of TJ Stewart is beyond impressive. He came to Blacksburg as a blue-chip recruit with a ton of potential, he had a good redshirt year while adjusting to going down a weight and balancing the rigors of college. When he confidently made the cut to 184 and got his chance to start he immediately showed what could be for the Hokies. Stewart talked about feeling more comfortable and confident at the weight as the year went on. After assuming the starting spot in the second semester he put together a 13-3 record and earned his first All-American honor, finishing in 7th in Kansas City. Stewart has a ton of potential and I think this is just the start for him. 

    Best Facial Hair: Clayton Ulrey, Virginia Tech

    Between the hair and the impressive beard, Ulrey constantly has the look that he may have wandered into the Virginia Tech room fresh off the Appalachian Trail. I appreciate the dedication. 

    Newcomer of the Year: Finn Solomon, Pittsburgh

    I had to stretch a bit for this one. While Solomon is a newcomer to the Pitt lineup, he transferred in-conference after an impressive redshirt year at NC State. Solomon was a solid addition in the middle of the lineup for the Panthers this year putting together an 18-12 record--10 of those losses were to top-12 ranked wrestlers--and qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Solomon will be a great, reliable anchor in the lineup moving forward. 

    Singlet of the Year: Pitt Black

    The ACC continues to roll out some of the best singlets in the country and this year was no exception. The Panthers get the nod this year with my favorite of their singlets being the black singlet with the Script Pitt. North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and NC State all had solid new offerings this year as well; if only the UVA powers that be would allow them more flexibility in their designs…

    Most Improved: Marlon Yarbrough, Virginia

    Yarbrough went through some serious growing pains last season after assuming the starting spot late in the season and ended with a 5-10 overall record. His performance this year was a complete 180 from last year. Yarbrough earned the starting spot early and never looked back, putting together a 15-9 record, placing 3rd at the ACC tournament, and making his first trip to the NCAA championships. Yarbrough also bounced back from a midseason injury suffered at the Midlands--several of his losses were after the injury and prior to being back to 100%. His highlight win of the year was a major decision over Sam Latona at home in the Commonwealth Clash. I expect continued growth from Yarbrough and think he has big potential. 

    The Nathan Traxler ACC Best Hair Award: 

    Frankly, I was disappointed in the state of the hair quality in the ACC this year. Nathan Traxler and his luxurious locks started this award and it’s unfortunate that wrestlers aren’t clamoring to live up to that standard. Somehow this has to be Owen Trephan’s fault for cutting his hair midseason last year…

    This year’s honoree is Gaetano Console from Duke. He pulled off the short curly mop balanced with a solid beard. Honorable Mention to Krystian Kinsey of Virginia. The 2nd Annual #BaldHero Award in honor of Jarod Verkleeren is given to Trent Paulson, assistant coach at UVA. 

    Wrestler of the Year: Caleb Henson, Virginia Tech

    After battling Ridge Lovett to take a 1-0 win in the NCAA semifinals, Henson made a quiet, but confident remark in the press conference. Speaking about the impact that winning an NCAA title could have, he corrected the questioner that it isn’t if he wins, it is “when he wins”. This confidence has been evident since Henson won his first (of 3 straight) Southeast Open titles as a high school senior. The Hokie staff knew they had something special in Henson and it was just a matter of time before the rest of the country saw that. 

    He had a strong freshman season, going 27-5, winning his first ACC title, and placing 5th at NCAAs to earn his first All-American honors. Henson was on a different level this year. He navigated a very challenging schedule, facing multiple All-Americans throughout the regular season on his way to a 24-1 regular season record; his lone loss was in sudden victory to Ridge Lovett in the CKLV finals. His only other loss on the season was to Jackson Arrington in a controversial match in the ACC finals. 

    This loss led to a more challenging path in the NCAA tournament for Henson, having what many thought would be the NCAA final matchup with Lovett in the semifinals. After that gritty win, he went on to have a dominant performance over Austin Gomez in the NCAA finals. Gomez got the first takedown, then it was all Henson for the rest of the match, taking a 15-7 major decision over the Wolverine. Henson brings the second-ever national title back to Blacksburg and sets himself up as the favorite moving into next season. 

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