Virginia Tech coaches (from left) Jared Frayer, Tony Robie, and Cody Brewer (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Last week, the #17 ranked dual meet team, Virginia Tech, released their schedule for the 2022-23 season. The ever-increasing ACC makes for a tough built-in schedule with teams like NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Virginia. Head Coach Tony Robie and staff have found other schools outside of the league to make for a very imposing slate. The Hokies are set to take on the preseason #3, #4, and #5 teams in dual competition with Missouri, Ohio State, and Cornell. In addition to Virginia Tech's duals, they are set to enter the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which will likely be the toughest in-season tournament this year. For a school that has typically had difficulty finding Big Ten schools to agree to meet in a dual setting, the Hokie staff has provided their team with many challenging events that will prepare them for the 2023 postseason.
Virginia Tech initially had a dual event scheduled for mid-December, which has since been canceled. There may be an addition to the schedule based on this development.
Before getting into the actual schedule, here are some notes regarding the teams on the dual portion.
One Big Ten Team: Ohio State
One Big 12 Team: Missouri
Two EIWA Teams: American, Cornell
Two other teams from Virginia: George Mason, Virginia
Eight teams that finished in the Top-30 at the 2022 NCAA Championships: #7 Cornell, #9 Missouri, #10 NC State, #13 Ohio State, #18 North Carolina, #24 Pittsburgh, #29 Appalachian State, #30 Virginia
Home Slate: Cornell, Missouri, NC State, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Away Duals: American, Appalachian State, Duke, George Mason, North Carolina, Ohio State
November 6th - Southeast Open @ Salem, Virginia
The Southeast Open has typically been the season-opener for the Hokies. Thus far, Columbia and VMI have this event on their schedule. It usually draws from other schools in the ACC, along with the DI schools in North Carolina and Virginia.
November 11th - #4 Ohio State @ Columbus, Ohio
Virginia Tech might get their most difficult dual of the year in their opening contest. Last year, the Buckeyes traveled south, so the Hokies will return the favor. In his first match at 133 lbs, #13 Sam Latona could meet up with much-heralded true freshman Nic Bouzakis. The back half of the dual could feature matchups between All-Americans at 174 and 184 lbs. #2 Mekhi Lewis and #6 Ethan Smith, before #12 Hunter Bolen and #4 Kaleb Romero. Lewis prevailed in a close match during the 2021-22 dual and Bolen/Romero did not meet.
November 20th - Keystone Classic @ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A new event for the Hokies comes in the form of the Keystone Classic. #16 Penn, just ahead of Tech in a tournament format, hosts a solid group of teams. Along with the hosts, Appalachian State and Rider could be two of the better teams in the field.
December 2nd/3rd - Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational @ Las Vegas, Nevada
The CKLV Invitational is routinely in the mix for the best individual, regular season tournament in all the land. This tournament should take the crown in 2022, as plenty of star power is expected out west. #4 Ohio State, #6 Michigan, #7 Minnesota, #8 Cornell, #9 Nebraska, #12 Northwestern, #14 Princeton are the top-20 teams that have registered. This is a great opportunity for Hokie wrestlers to move up or solidify their national rankings.
December 11th - #3 Missouri @ Home
One of the best duals of the 2021-22 season was when Virginia Tech traveled to Mizzou to take on the Tigers. It should be a great one this year, too. One of the most exciting matches of the dual took place at 174 lbs where Lewis was pushed into tiebreakers by #10 Peyton Mocco. True freshman Caleb Henson is expected to start at 149 and he'll get to deal with one of the Tigers best grapplers, two-time NCAA All-American, #5 Brock Mauller. Another difficult match for Virginia Tech occurs at 165, where Chattanooga transfer, Drew Nicholson, meets defending NCAA champion Keegan O'Toole.
January 6th - #5 Cornell @ Home
A staple of Virginia Tech wrestling has been hosting a dual meet in the Moss Arts Center. And what a dual it could be! Last year, the teams met at the Collegiate Duals and Cornell got by with an 18-15 win. Once again, Mekhi has another opponent that pushed him into extra time with #11 Chris Foca. The All-Americans at 184 are no strangers, either. Bolen defeated Jonathan Loew in their 2020 dual, but Loew returned the favor in Florida. This one could come down to the big men with Tech's #21 Hunter Catka and #9 Lewis Fernandes for Cornell.
January 8th - George Mason @ Fairfax, Virginia
Virginia Tech heads up north to take on George Mason in the first leg of a Sunday twinbill that ends with a dual at American. Two of the Patriots most promising wrestlers are Josh Jones (133) and Kaden Cassidy (141). That could make for some competitive bouts with Latona and Collin Gerardi. GMU is also strong at 174 and 184, with Logan Messer and Kyle Davis; however, the Virginia Tech duo will be heavy favorites.
January 8th - American @ Washington DC
AU should be strong right off the bat with their 125 and 133 lbers, which makes sense because they are led by Tech alum Joey Dance, a two-time AA at 125 lbs. 125 lber Max Leete had a good freshman campaign with 17 wins in 26 matches. He'll take on one of the Virginia Tech redshirt freshman tandem of Cooper Flynn and Eddie Ventresca. At 133 lbs is 2022 EIWA fourth-place finisher Jack Maida, who could test Latona. At the other end of the lineup, Isaac Righter picked up 14 wins in his first year as a starter and should only get better. He'll get Catka at 285 lbs.
January 13th - Appalachian State @ Boone, North Carolina
Virginia Tech will go into a hostile atmosphere in their last test before the conference slate, as App State's alumni gym tends to get rowdy. The 165 lb bout should feature a pair of familiar faces, Nicholson and #15 Will Formato. The pair have clashed four times in the past, when Nicholson was at Chattanooga. Though Formato has gotten the best of Nicholson (3 wins to 2), the new Hokie did win the most recent matches. App State's best wrestler is two-time AA Jonathan Millner at 149 lbs. Half of Millner's four 2021-22 losses came at the hands of Bryce Andonian at the NCAA Championships. With Andonian moving up, expect to see Millner and true freshman Henson.
January 20th - #12 NC State @ Home
Whether you're an ACC fan or not, this dual has had to make its way onto your "must watch" list. While there are typically fireworks up and down this card, 157 is guaranteed to have some excellent action. Andonian moves up to challenge the returning ACC champion from 2022, Ed Scott. The Hokie All-American won both of their 2021 meetings, but Scott has improved greatly since. What about round six in Bolen versus Trent Hidlay? Bolen started the series with three consecutive wins; however, Hidlay has recorded wins in their most recent two contests. Again, this is one that could come down to Catka and Tyrie Houghton. The two split matches in 2021-22 with Catka grabbing a sudden victory win at the Wolfpack Open, while Houghton evened the score with a major decision at the Southern Scuffle.
January 27th - Pittsburgh @ Home
The Pittsburgh dual has a handful of enticing matchup possibilities. Barring something at an open tournament, it would be the first meeting between Latona and two-time ACC champion Micky Phillippi. Up a weight, we'll see if Cole Matthews maintains his #1 ranking by match time. Either way, he'll have Collin Gerardi, who fought him to a 2-0 loss at the 2022 ACC Championships. Like Henson for the Hokies, Pitt is excited about the prospects of their freshman, Brock McMillen.
February 3rd - Duke @ Durham, North Carolina
We'll have to see how the Duke lineup develops as the year progresses. Based on the 2021-22 season, heavyweight Jonah Neisenbaum could be the Blue Devils top wrestler. He has a history with Catka, who had his number with a pair of wins via tech fall in 2021.
February 10th - North Carolina @ Chapel Hill, North Carolina
There are plenty of interesting matchups with UNC/VT, starting at 133 lbs. Latona has Jaime Hernandez, who has been very good, when healthy. All-American Zach Sherman is awaiting Henson at 149 lbs. 157 has a mammoth collision between Andonian and 2021 NCAA Champion Austin O'Connor. The pair had a classic 2021 ACC final, where Andonian jumped out to a big lead, but was run down by O'Connor. All-Americans Lewis and Clay Lautt will renew acquaintances at 174 lbs. Lewis won both meetings last season, but each was competitive. The Tar Heels Gavin Kane put the rest of the nation on notice with his win over Bolen in dual competition. He proved it was no fluke by doing it again at the conference meet.
February 17th - Virginia @ Home
Rivalry weekend to close out the regular season! The Hokies will seek to extend their winning streak over UVA to 11 duals. As usual, expect fireworks at 157 lbs. Andonian always looks to put points on the board and the same can be said for Keating. Jake was the #14 seed at nationals and third at a rough 157 lb ACC bracket in 2022. We'll see if NCAA qualifier Michael Battista can keep the momentum going from a strong freestyle season. He'll move up to 197 lbs and should see Hokie fan favorite Cody Howard. UVA also signed a highly-touted recruiting Class of 2022, so by the time February rolls around one or two of them could have supplanted returners in the starting lineup.
March 5th - ACC Championships @ Raleigh, North Carolina
The ACC Tournament is my personal favorite to attend/follow. While we'd all like to see more ACC schools with wrestling, a six-team tournament makes every match count. The inevitable upset rocks the balance of the team scores. Knowing what we know now, Virginia Tech will certainly be in the mix for a title. If their freshmen develop as expected, the Hokies could establish themselves as favorites.