2021 NCAA Runner-up Nino Bonaccorsi (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Duke: The Blue Devils fell to the Appalachian State Mountaineers at home on Thursday despite making a run at the upperweights. The Mountaineers relied on the strength of their lightweights to jump out to an early lead that they would never relinquish. #27 Caleb Smith beat Logan Agin by major at 125, followed by #28 Codi Russell, earning a tech fall over Drake Doolittle at 133 and Patrick Rowland losing by decision at 141. In the match of the night, at 149, we saw #8 Josh Finesilver taking on All-American #5 Jonathan Millner--Finesilver's only loss of the year to this point was to Millner. Finesilver got in on some great shots early, but was unable to finish. Millner wrestled incredibly well from space and utilized his quick reshots to take control of the match. Millner pulled away late to make the score 8-3 and handed Finesilver his second loss of the season.
App State continued their streak to take the next two matches; Wade Unger lost by major to #32 Cody Bond at 157, followed by Gabe Dinette dropping a 7-4 decision to #21 Will Formato at 165. The Blue Devils finally got on the board at 174 and ran the table for the rest of the matches, but it wasn't enough to overtake the Mountaineers. #13 Matt Finesilver controlled the match against #33 Thomas Flitz and took the 4-0 decision, but was disappointed with the result, as he was looking to score bonus. At 184, Vincent Baker pulled off a win in sudden victory, followed by Kaden Russell putting on a show on his feet to win 7-1. Jonah Niesenbaum wrapped up the dual for Duke with a controlling 5-2 decision win over Michael Burchell.
This wasn't the best dual we've seen from the Blue Devils this year, but they identified some areas they need to improve going into a battle with UNC next week. They travel across town to face the Tar Heels to open conference duals on Friday.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were off this week and will return to action hosting Duke to open ACC conference duals on Friday, before taking on former assistant coach Neil Erisman's Little Rock squad on Sunday.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack had the week off and will return to action in a repeat of the ACC dual of the year last season, hosting Virginia Tech at Reynolds Coliseum on Friday.
Pittsburgh: The #19 Panthers may have made the biggest noise of any ACC team this weekend when they knocked off #6 Arizona State in front of their home crowd at Fitzgerald Field House. The Panthers took an unusual path to a team victory, only winning four of the ten matches, but all were six-point wins for Pitt. When I said there was a path to victory for the Panthers--this wasn't quite what I had in mind! Pitt lost some close toss-up matches, but was able to overcome that deficit and live up to their #PINZBURGH tag line with three pins and a fourth win by disqualification.
At 125, #32 Gage Curry was able to slow the pace of #4 Brandon Courtney and hold him to a decision win. Then at 133, we were treated to a high-level match between #7 Micky Phillippi and #4 Michael McGee; it was a tight match, but McGee was able to take the win by decision. #22 Cole Matthews continued his hot streak and got the Panthers evened up on the board with a first-period pin over Julian Chlebove that got the crowd on their feet. That was short-lived as they got to the middle of the Sun Devil lineup. #11 Kyle Parco controlled a 16-2 major decision over Dan Mancini at 149. #21 Elijah Cleary wrestled well against #3 Jacori Teemer but was unable to finish any offensive attacks; Teemer scored late to stretch his lead in an otherwise close match to win 6-2. At the halfway point of the dual, ASU was up 13-6 over the Panthers.
In one of the more anticipated matches at 165, #6 Anthony Valencia was able to outlast #13 Jake Wentzel 6-3. The match had a weird back and forth feeling to it, complete with Wentzel getting called for stalling with a cradle locked up, but I digress. Wentzel looked great and punishing on top, but wasn't able to capitalize on his feet, though he was able to slow the very dangerous Valencia. Going into 174m with the team score 16-6, it didn't look great for Pitt. Enter James Lledo, who has made the drop from 184; Lledo came out firing and took Zane Coleman to his back for a first-period pin. With a hint of momentum, #31 Gregg Harvey brought a relentless pace and punished Josh Nummer for the better part of three periods. While Harvey worked for the tech fall, Nummer was disqualified after being hit for stalling five times to put another 6 on the board for the Panthers to lead 18-16. #8 Nino Bonaccorsi was set for a top-10 battle with #10 Kordell Norfleet, but instead, ASU sent out Jake Ortiz, with #3 Colton Schultz looming at 285, Pitt needed bonus points from Nino to win the dual. Nino delivered with a first-period pin, icing the dual for the Panthers. ASU was penalized a team point after the match and at 285, Jake Slinger lost to Schultz by major decision to make the final team score 24-19 for the Panthers.
Pitt may not have wrestled their optimal dual, and lost a couple toss-up matches they were hoping to win, but it's hard to not be satisfied with this result. Incredible team match for the Panthers and impressive work to minimize the damage from some dangerous wrestlers and to earn bonus points at every match they could. This gives Pitt a lot of momentum going into ACC dual season when they host Virginia next Friday.
Virginia: The Hoos were faced with a difficult challenge this week as COVID precautions within the program limited the roster significantly for the Virginia Duals. "These guys were ready to go and we--and big thanks to our athletic trainer for going to bat for them--fought for them to be able to go compete this weekend," said Coach Garland. "The guys that went made the most of their opportunities and I'm really proud of how they competed this weekend."
125: Patrick McCormick went 1-2 on the weekend with a win over #23 Joey Prata and losses to #22 Fabian Gutierrez and #27 Anthony Noto.
133: #14 Brian Courtney went 3-1 with wins over Vidlak and Tanner from Oklahoma and Strickland from Lock Haven. He lost to #21 Brayden Palmer of UTC.
149: Jarod Verkleeren was undefeated on the weekend, picking up four wins, including a pin and a major decision. He won by decision over All-American Dom Demas of Oklahoma; he also won by decision over Noah Castillo of UTC. He picked up a major decision over DeShawn Farber of Lock Haven and pinned Tyler Johnson from Kent State. Excellent weekend for Verk and he looked on his game every match.
157: Jon Errico went 2-1 with two wins by pin.
157: Jake Keating had a great return to the lineup, going 3-1 on the weekend with his only loss to #16 Justin Thomas of Oklahoma. He had decision wins against Lock Haven and UTC and picked up a tech fall against Kent State.
165: #16 Justin McCoy went 1-0 in his only match against UTC.
174: Robby Patrick went 0-1, falling in sudden victory in his first appearance this year against UTC.
184: Michael Battista had a phenomenal weekend and looks ready to smash entering ACC competition. He was 4-0 on the weekend with a big win over #21 Darrien Roberts of Oklahoma 3-1. He also picked up a decision win against UTC, a major decision against Lock Haven and a tech fall against Kent State.
197: #14 Jay Aiello continues to impress in his return to the UVA lineup; he went 4-0 on the weekend. His biggest win came against All-American #11 Jake Woodley of Oklahoma, where he picked up a convincing 6-1 decision. He also notched a pin and a tech fall against Lock Haven on day one and on day two, he ended with a pin over South Dakota State, after upsetting Woodley.
UVA made the most of a tumultuous weekend and is moving into conference competition with their lineup finally coming together after several starters being out with injuries. They travel to Pitt to open conference duals on Friday.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies hosted their fourth event at the Moss Arts Center, taking on George Mason at center stage of the performing arts center in Blacksburg. We got to see some of the young talent for the Hokies as some starters were rested in preparation for ACC duals starting next week. The biggest takeaway was the return of #7 Bryce Andonian, who we haven't seen since the Mizzou dual. He looked like he hadn't missed a step and opened the dual with a pin at 149. He also added a second pin in an extra match after the conclusion of the dual.
#16 Sam Latona looked strong and was on the offensive the entire match to win by major. Brandon Wittenberg picked up a convincing decision at 133 in his dual debut. Collin Gerardi got the nod at 141 and won by decision 5-2. Following Andonian's pin, Jake Hart dropped a 3-1 decision at 157. Clayton Ulrey came out firing and was more aggressive than I think I've seen him all season. He looked great and is really rounding into form for the Hokies; he dominated his way to a 13-3 major decision. George Mason was able to claw back into the dual in the next two matches. Logan Messer pinned Austin Dempsey at 174 and Simeon Holmes lost by injury default to Kyle Davis. The final two weights were all Hokies. #33 Dakota Howard showed his offensive firepower on his way to a 22-7 tech fall. #13 Nathan Traxler made his Moss debut a quick show, getting his fastest pin of the season in 33 seconds.
The dual at Moss is always a great event, and it was good to see some of the young guys getting to step into the lineup in that setting. The Hokies are locked in and ready for a rematch of the dual of the year from last season as they travel to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack on Friday.