(from left) Jeremiah Kent, Hunter Bolen, Parker Keckeisen (Bolen/Keckeisen photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; Kent photo courtesy of Mark Lundy)
The Hokies travel to Columbia, Missouri, for a tri against two formidable opponents. They will face #23 Northern Iowa and #4 Missouri. On paper, the Hokies are favored against the Panthers at most weights, while they split the matches with the Tigers based on current rankings. This will be a great test for the team facing some strong out-of-conference programs. Individually, it is a big weekend for Sam Latona, Bryce Andonian, Hunter Bolen and Nathan Traxler as they will face two ranked opponents on the weekend. This weekend could play a big role in NCAA seeding and will be a great gauge of where the Hokies sit both individually and as a team.
#10 Virginia Tech vs. #24 Northern Iowa
125: #12 Sam Latona VT vs #11 Brody Teske UNI
Another big early-season test for Latona, and a chance for him to get back on track after a couple early losses. If Latona can get on his offense, he can handle this matchup easily; if he wrestles tentatively, Teske can put up points. This should be one of the more entertaining matches in this dual.
Latona by decision 3-0
133: #4 Korbin Myers VT vs. Kyle Biscoglia UNI
Myers has looked great to start the season. He should control this match from start to finish and push for bonus.
Myers by major 7-0
141: Colin Gerardi VT vs Cael Happel/Gable Fox/Ethan Basile UNI
Definite toss-up match here. Gerardi has filled in nicely since earning the starting spot and this is a spot where he could make his mark. UNI has either Happel, Fox, or Basile at their disposal. Happel is currently 6-1 and ranked 29th in the country.
Gerardi by decision 10-0
149: #7 Bryce Andonian VT vs. #30 Tristan Lara UNI
Andonian can use this weekend to make a big statement if he so chooses. He wrestled Sasso very tough but came out on the losing side in his only match of the season. We all know what Andonian can do and I'm hoping to see him throw it all out there this weekend. Lara is a returning NCAA qualifier and a consistent performer with wins over All-Americans Jarrett Degen and Kyle Parco and will be a good gauge of where Andonian is at.
Andonian by major 14-0
157: #24 Connor Brady VT vs. Cayd Lara UNI
Brady has started the year off 5-1 and has looked strong in all positions. He has shown the ability to put up points and to win close battles. Brady will be an important anchor in the middle of the lineup as the Hokies move into the meat of the Panther lineup. I think Brady controls the tempo of the match and wins a lopsided decision, but doesn't quite get bonus.
Brady by decision 17-0
165: Clayton Ulrey VT vs. #25 Austin Yant UNI
Ulrey hasn't started the season as well as the Hokie staff had hoped, but he has shown growth in his last two matches. He held #9 Carson Karchla to a decision in one of his lowest scoring matches of the year to help the Hokies in a close battle with the Buckeyes. Yant has looked great to start the year 6-2 and will look to get some momentum going for the Panthers.
Yant by decision 17-3
174: #4 Mekhi Lewis VT vs #25 Lance Runyon/Pat Schoenfelder UNI
Lewis has been dominant since returning at 174. He is 6-0 on the season, with his only close match being a 2 point decision win over #6 Ethan Smith. A healthy Mekhi Lewis is a scary prospect for anyone who steps on the mat. Lance Runyon came into the season ranked but is yet to see any action for the Panthers. Schoenfelder has a 5-2 record wrestling in opens so far this year but shouldn't pose a big threat to Lewis.
Lewis by major 21-3
184: #9 Hunter Bolen VT vs #4 Parker Keckiesen UNI
This is the marquee matchup for the dual. All-American versus All-American. Keckiesen edged out Bolen in sudden victory last year in the NCAA tournament so expect another battle here. I really don't know how this one shakes out, but it should be a close match that will be won by inches positionally. I'm giving the edge to Keckiesen by virtue of the last win.
Keckiesen by decision 21-6
197: Dakota Howard VT vs. Noah Glaser UNI
Another toss-up match here. Howard is 4-2 on the season, while Glaser is 2-2. Howard is the much more aggressive point scorer here and is very difficult to score on. I give the edge to the Hokies in this toss-up.
Howard by decision 24-6
285: #14 Nathan Traxler VT vs. #21 Carter Isley UNI
This is the fifth potential ranked versus ranked matchup in the dual. Traxler has started the year strong at 5-1 with four pins and his only loss was to #6 Tate Orndorff in a narrow decision. Isley is 1-1, with his first action coming in last week's Cyclone Open. Traxler holds the last victory in the series with a 10-0 major decision at the NCAA tournament last year while Traxler was at Stanford. This is a chance for Traxler to pick up another ranked win and put a stamp on the dual for the Hokies.
Traxler by decision 27-6
#10 Virginia Tech vs. #4 Missouri
125: #12 Sam Latona VT vs #18 Noah Surtin Mizzou
Out of the gate with a great matchup. Latona has established himself as a threat earning All-American status last year. Surtin has shown improvement throughout his time at Mizzou and is 3-0 to start the year. Latona's matches this year have come down to his level of offense-if he is attacking at a high rate, he is dangerous. His losses have come in matches where he wasn't the aggressor. I think Latona gets back on track this weekend and picks up two important wins for the Hokies.
Latona by decision 3-0
133: #4 Korbin Myers VT vs. #27 Trey Crawford Mizzou
Myers has established himself as a leader for the Hokies and has come through big with bonus points to help the team. This will be another opportunity for him to make a difference in the team score and pick up an extra point. Crawford is a freshman with a lot of potential who will be a name to watch in the years to come. I think Myers has the experience edge and knows the importance of this match and is able to pick up bonus.
Myers by major 7-0
141: Colin Gerardi VT vs #12 Allan Hart Mizzou
Gerardi has been a consistent force for the Hokies and will look to help the team this match by limiting the damage from a dangerous Allan Hart. Hart fell in the bloodround last year to Chad Red and has been a force for the Tigers in the past few seasons. Hart will be looking to add bonus points, but I think Gerardi is able to hold him to three.
Hart by decision 7-3
149: #7 Bryce Andonian VT vs. #19 Josh Edmond Mizzou
Edmond is another young superstar in the making for the Tigers. He is undefeated in college, going 3-0 so far this year and 10-0 last year in extra matches. But he hasn't wrestled anyone as dynamic as Andonian. Edmond isn't afraid to mix it up and we all know that Andonian goes full bore from the first whistle--so this could be a fun one. I think it will be close early, but Andonian's experience and unusual feel will help him pull away as the match goes on. This could be potential for the Hokies to pick up another bonus point.
Andonian by decision 10-3
157: #24 Connor Brady VT vs. #11 Jarrett Jacques Mizzou
This could be one of the best matches in the dual. Jacques fell in the bloodround last year to Brayton Lee but has been one of the most consistent high-level performers for Mizzou. Brady has lived up to high expectations coming into the season starting 5-1, with his only loss coming to #5 Quincy Monday. Both wrestlers manage the pace of the match and are great defensively but have the ability to put up a lot of points--I don't think we'll see a lot of points in this match though. I believe that Jacques is more battle-tested and will be able to keep the edge in this match.
Jacques by decision 10-6
165: Clayton Ulrey VT vs. #3 Keegan O'Toole Mizzou
Since he got to Columbia, O'Toole has put the world on notice that he is the real deal. He only has one loss on his record in college; a decision loss to Jake Wentzel, on his way to a 3rd place finish at the NCAA tournament. He upped that this summer by picking up a Junior World Championship and is coming into this season looking to improve on last year's finish. O'Toole is a talented wrestler who is constantly looking to finish matches, so a pin is never out of the question. Ulrey has had a rough start to the season, but has shown the ability to step up to help the team save critical points in duals. This one will be a big challenge for Ulrey to manage and O'Toole will be looking to get as many bonus points as possible for the Tigers.
O'Toole by tech 10-11
174: #4 Mekhi Lewis VT vs. #10 Peyton Mocco Mizzou
In our first of back-to-back top-10 battles, Mekhi Lewis looks to continue his early-season dominance at his new weight class. Lewis is back from a season-ending injury last season--he is healthy and looks very, very strong at the higher weight class. He battled All-American Ethan Smith in a great match where he pulled away late to win a decision. Mocco is 3-0 to start the year and finished in the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament last year, but he hasn't met anyone of the caliber of Lewis yet this season. I think Lewis controls this match from the first whistle and will be pushing for bonus points to help his team.
Lewis by decision 13-11
184: #9 Hunter Bolen VT vs. #10 Jeremiah Kent Mizzou
Bolen faces his second top-10 opponent of the weekend in a very dynamic wrestler in Jeremiah Kent. Kent made the round of 16 last year while Bolen brought home All-American honors. Bolen is the more consistent wrestler in what to expect and Kent is capable of scoring in bunches, but Bolen is very difficult to score on. I expect the maturity and experience of Bolen to play a big role in this match.
Bolen by decision 16-11
197: Dakota Howard VT vs. #5 Rocky Elam Mizzou
Depending on the bout order, this match could play a big role in establishing some momentum for the Tigers. Elam is an All-American and a Junior World Champion and was dominant in his first year of college wrestling, finishing 5th at NCAAs. Howard is a scrappy competitor and never seems to be out of a match; he has had a good start to his season at 4-2. Elam will be looking to add bonus here and Howard will be looking to manage the match and minimize damage.
Elam by major 16-15
285: #14 Nathan Traxler VT vs. #13 Zach Elam Mizzou
Another Hokie top-10 dual will come down to the heavyweight match to decide a winner. Traxler and Elam and very evenly matched and this will be a fun way to end a back and forth dual. Both have fallen in the Bloodround at the NCAA tournament and are looking to get to the All-American podium this season. Elam is 3-0 to start the year, while Traxler is 6-1 with four pins. Traxler's lone loss is to #6 Tate Orndorff. In the matches that Traxler has been the aggressor, he has been dominant, so if he's looking to seal the win for the Hokies, he will need to be on the attack. I think we see a back and forth match with takedowns on both sides and Traxler is able to pull it out late.
Traxler by decision 19-15