Trent Hidlay greeting Isaac Trumble (right) (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Duke: The Blue Devils opened their home slate with three duals in Cameron Indoor on Sunday and came away with a 3-0 record to move their season record to 6-4. Duke took the first dual over Bloomsburg 29-9, led by pins from Kaden Russell at 197 and #8 Matt Finesilver at 174. They also picked up bonus points from Logan Agin at 125 and #9 Josh Finesilver at 149, both picking up major decisions. The second dual was a 30-10 win over The Citadel, which was again led by bonus points from Russell with an 18-0 tech fall, Agin with a pin in 19 seconds, Josh Finesilver with a fall in the first period and Matt Finesilver closing out the dual with a major decision. The Blue Devils closed out the day with a 30-7 drubbing of the late addition Presbyterian. They were led again by Russell with a 16-0 tech and ended the dual with three straight bonus-point wins. Wade Unger (157) picked up a major decision, followed by Gabe Dinette doing the same at 165. Matt Finesilver ended the evening with an 18-0 tech fall.
Duke looked great from the opening whistle. Kaden Russell is breaking through and making the impact I thought he could. Another big thing we saw is Stanford transfer Gabe Dinette going 3-0 on the day. He could be a big piece providing more stability in the middle of the lineup. Both Finesilver brothers also capped off unbeaten days. Josh closes out the first half of the season at 16-1 with the #9 ranking at 149, while brother Matt remains undefeated at 17-0 and is ranked #8 at 174. Logan Agin also had a 3-0 day and had a highlight reel 0:19 second pin. The Blue Devils are off to their best start since the 2014-2015 season. They are back in action at the Southern Scuffle on January 1st.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels traveled to Boone to battle with the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Friday night. The dual was back and forth throughout, but UNC was able to pull out a 17-15 win. Joe Heilmann stepped in at 133 and made some big noise knocking off #23 Codi Russell 4-3. #9 Kizhan Clarke continued his undefeated start to the season with a decision win, bringing his record to 9-0 on the year. #17 Zach Sherman had yet another top-10 opponent in All-American #7 Jonathan Millner and fell in a 5-2 decision. #7 Austin O'Connor delivered another bonus point win with a 12-3 major decision at 157. In one of the more surprising results of the night, #9 Clay Lautt--who had been on a hot streak--lost a 6-5 decision to Thomas Flitz. #21 Gavin Kane got the team back on track with a decision win, followed by a major decision at 197 from #30 Max Shaw to give the Tar Heels the lead for good. It was a rowdy atmosphere in Boone and the dual was a battle. The Tar Heels were able to do what needed to be done to pick up the win and get back to Chapel Hill. They are back in action at the Southern Scuffle on January 1st.
NC State: The #5 Wolfpack made a big statement at the Collegiate Duals in Florida on Monday and Tuesday. They ran through Binghamton 35-9 to start the event on a high note. #5 Jakob Camacho started off the dual with a pin at 125, followed by an injury default for Jarrett Trombley at 133. Hunter Lewis lost a decision at 141, then the Wolfpack rolled off five wins in a row. #3 Tariq Wilson picked up a decision at 149, then #23 Ed Scott kicked off a big weekend with an 18-1 tech fall and #18 Thomas Bullard earned a decision at 165. The Hidlay Brothers both got BONUS, with #5 Hayden notching a major decision at 174 and #3 Trent with a dominating tech fall at 184. #15 Isaac Trumble fell to #12 Lou DePrez at 197 and #28 Owen Trephan ended the dual with a ranked win over #22 Joe Doyle.
The second dual was a highly anticipated matchup with #10 Missouri that was a back-and-forth battle throughout. The Tigers got the first win with #15 Noah Surtin earning a late takedown to seal a decision win over #5 Jakob Camacho. #17 Kai Orine continued his hot start and evened up the dual with a decision win. It tilted back at 141 with #14 Allan Hart earning a decision win over #16 Ryan Jack. The next two matches were big wins over ranked opponents for the Wolfpack. #3 Tariq Wilson with an 11-8 decision over a very dangerous #18 Josh Edmond and #23 Ed Scott with the "upset" decision over #14 Jarrett Jacques. #18 Thomas Bullard held #3, Keegan O'Toole, to a decision-an impressive feat-at 165 to even up the dual at 9-9. Once Hidlaymania began, the Wolfpack made another run. #5 Hayden Hidlay won by decision over #14 Peyton Mocco and #3 Trent Hidlay with the workmanlike effort to get a bonus point for the team with a major decision over Jeremiah Kent. #15 Isaac Trumble picked up a huge win over #4 Rocky Elam to seal the dual for the Wolfpack. The dual was wrapped up with a very impressive fight from third-string heavyweight Tyrie Houghton, who showed some incredible potential in his 6-5 loss to #16 Zach Elam. Overall, this was a very entertaining dual and you could feel the momentum sway from match to match before the Wolfpack made a run in the middle-upper weights.
The win over Missouri set up a high stakes dual against the returning National Champion #1 Iowa Hawkeyes…this one didn't disappoint either. In what is the early front-runner for Dual of the Year, the Hawkeyes won the last two bouts in a wild dual to win 19-15.
#5 Jakob Camacho faced a tough task with three-time NCAA Champ Spencer Lee returning to action for the Hawkeyes. He wrestled amazingly and held the high-scoring Lee to his first non-bonus point win of the season in a 6-1 decision. #17 Kai Orine faced the second big gun for Iowa in #3 Austin DeSanto. Orine wrestled well against the very aggressive DeSanto and lost the major decision 16-7. This next match could be a whole paragraph in itself. Suffice to say, #16 Ryan Jack wrestled out of his mind and lost in a controversial finish to #2 Jaydin Eierman. Jack controlled the match from the outset and was up on Eierman going into the 3rd. The Hawkeye was able to take a late lead and was riding Jack with a 7-6 lead at the end of regulation. While in the scramble to escape, Jack secured Eierman's head and arched to put him on his back and looked to get the defensive fall as time expired. Whether it was a pin or not will depend on who you ask--but there were certainly a lot of people upset about the no-call and it will be one that will be debated through the season. Pin or not, Jack was very impressive that match and made a statement on the national scene.
That wild match put Iowa up 7-6. #3 Tariq Wilson gave the Wolfpack the lead back with a 7-3 decision win. At 157, #23 Ed Scott put his name on the national radar with a pin of #8 Kaleb Young in 1:10. Scott dug a left underhook and ripped a righty headlock to put Young on his back and give the Wolfpack some momentum and pulled them back within one. Donald Cates got the call at 165 and fought hard to hold #1 Alex Marinelli to a 7-2 decision. #5 Hayden Hidlay picked up a 4-2 decision over the very-defensive Nelson Brands and #3 Trent Hidlay followed with a 6-0 decision over Abe Assad as he continued to fight for bonus for the team and gave the Wolfpack the first lead of the night 15-13. This was short-lived as #15 Isaac Trumble lost a heartbreaker to #7 Jacob Warner 3-2 to give the Hawkeyes the lead for good. Tyrie Houghton fought valiantly and looked to possibly have some back points against #6 Tony Cassioppi, but fell 6-2 to give Iowa the 19-15 win and the pool title for the Collegiate Duals.
I can't imagine anyone watching this event and not coming away incredibly impressed with the Wolfpack. This event showed the team's depth with multiple people winning and/or being competitive with high-level wrestlers at multiple weights. It also provided statement wins for Ed Scott and Isaac Trumble and statement weekends for Tariq Wilson, Hayden and Trent Hidlay. Most importantly, everyone who watched the broadcast could see the culture that Coach Popolizio has built in Raleigh; it was evident by their performances on the mat and their support on the bench. There is something special happening at NC State and this was an excellent chance for fans across the country to see what we have been seeing in the conference.
The Wolfpack will return to action at the Southern Scuffle and will announce their lineup prior to the event.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers were off this week and were slated to return to action at The Midlands. Since the cancellation of the event, Pitt has committed to attending the "Midlands V2" hosted by Illinois Matmen.
Virginia: The Cavaliers were off this week and were slated to return to action at The Midlands, but since the cancellation, they have had a change of plans. After they received the news, Coach Garland and Coach Storniolo from Northwestern agreed to compete in a tri with SIUE.
Virginia Tech: The #9 Hokies entered the Collegiate Duals knowing they would face some stiff competition in their pool. They opened with Hofstra and made a statement with a 35-3 win. #16 Sam Latona opened with a major decision at 125, followed by an 18-4 tech fall from #4 Korbin Myers. They traded decisions at 141 and 149, with Collin Gerardi winning for the Hokies at 141 and Kylan Montgomery fighting hard while filling in for Bryce Andonian. The rest of the dual was all Virginia Tech. #22 Conor Brady won 6-3 at 157, followed by a beautiful pin from Clayton Ulrey at 165--I continue to be impressed every time he steps on the mat with the effort he always gives to the team. #4 Mekhi Lewis put on a scoring clinic with a 16-0 tech fall in just over three minutes. #9 Hunter Bolen wrestled incredibly well and controlled the match against #25 Charles Small to pick up the 6-3 decision. The dual closed out with two more wins over ranked wrestlers for the Hokies. Dakota Howard upset #26 Trey Rogers 5-3 at 197 and #14 Nathan Traxler won a convincing 7-1 decision over a very dangerous #20 Zachary Knighton-Ward.
The Hokies hoped that this momentum would carry them into a tough dual with #6 Arizona State, but the Sun Devils had their own plans. Arizona State has eight ranked wrestlers and they performed about as well as they possibly could in this dual. #16 Sam Latona faced national runner-up #3 Brandon Courtney and fell in an 8-4 decision. #4 Korbin Myers dropped his first match of the season in a back-and-forth match against #14 Michael McGee 8-7. Colln Gerardi put up a great fight and almost pulled off the upset over #15 Jesse Vasquez. Kylan Montgomery had the unfortunate job of facing #5 Kyle Parco and fell 14-1 in what was a very anticipated match for Bryce Andonian. The next two matches were heartbreakers for the Hokies as they tried to climb back into the dual. #22 Conor Brady lost in sudden victory to #3 Jacori Teemer at 157 in a match that he wrestled incredibly well. At 165, Clayton Ulrey gave #6 Anthony Valencia one of his best matches of the year, falling 11-9. At 174, #4 Mekhi Lewis tried to put the team on his back and get them back in the dual, reeling off another tech fall 19-3. #9 Hunter Bolen followed that up with a 20-2 tech fall in the second period. The Hokies hopes were cut the next match as Dakota Howard fell to #9 Kordell Norfleet. In the final bout, we were hoping for a rematch of last year's PAC-12 Championship match between #14 Nathan Traxler and #3 Colton Schultz, but the Sun Devils sent out a backup and Traxler picked up an 8-1 decision to end the dual. Hokies 13 Sun Devils 23
The final dual matched the Hokies with a very dangerous and well-balanced Cornell lineup. #16 Sam Latona opened the dual against #3 Vito Arujau and fell 12-2. #4 Korbin Myers rebounded from a tough loss against ASU to pick up win #100 with a 9-3 decision over Dom LaJoie; he was pushing for a major but couldn't finish before time expired.
Collin Gerardi wrestled a phenomenal match to earn a 6-0 decision at 141. Kylan Montgomery had another monster test against two-time NCAA champ Yianni Diakomihalis and fell in a 19-3 tech fall. #22 Conor Brady wrapped up a solid weekend with a ranked win in a very close bout with #25 Colton Yapujian, winning 2-1. Clayton Ulrey put up another impressive fight against #10 Julian Ramirez and nearly pulled off the upset, falling 4-2.
#4 Mekhi Lewis gave Hokie Nation a scare against #10 Chris Foca. Lewis was in on legs several times throughout the match, but couldn't finish. The bout went to sudden victory--no points were scored in the first two minutes, so it went to alternating ride-outs. Foca seemed confused by the position and chose top to open; Lewis was able to score escapes in both ride-out periods and took the bout 3-1. #9 Hunter Bolen dropped his first match of the year at 184 in a heartbreaker. He controlled the match for about six minutes and thirty seconds and looked to have the win in hand. #15 Jonathan Loew scored a takedown with 10 seconds remaining to send the match to overtime and secured another in overtime to knock off Bolen. At 197 Andy Smith made his season debut against #19 Jacob Cardenas and fell in a close 3-2 match. #14 Nathan Traxler finished up an undefeated weekend in a battle with #19 Lewis Fernandes. In a very entertaining heavyweight bout, Traxler took the 5-3 win to end the dual on a good note for the Hokies. Hokies 15 Cornell 18
The Hokies return to action on January 1st at the Southern Scuffle.