All-American's Ethan Smith (left) and Mekhi Lewis (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Friday evening in Columbus, Ohio it will be an ACC-Big Ten matchup as the #14 Virginia Tech Hokies head north to take on #4 Ohio State. Despite this being a non-conference dual, these schools have wrestled each other on a semi-regular basis and it typically produces excellent duals. The last time that Tony Robie's team set foot in the Covalli Center (November 2019), they left the victors after a 21-15 upset made possible by Brent Moore pinning freshman Sammy Sasso and Cody Hughes' win at 174 lbs. Last year, Ohio State got back on the winning track 17-13 in Blacksburg in a tightly contested dual. Going back a few years (2014-15), the Hokies defeated Ohio State in a dual meet during the national championship-winning season.
What makes this rivalry fun is that Virginia Tech has traditionally recruited well in Ohio. Tomorrow's dual could feature three Ohio natives donning maroon singlets. What's remarkable about the dual is the possibility of high school teammates clashing at not one, but two weights.
Virginia Tech comes in as an ever-so-slight favorite in an ACC that could be won by four different teams, at this point. As their freshmen continue to get experience, they could distinguish themselves as a clear conference leader. Tom Ryan's Ohio State squad is squarely back in the NCAA trophy discussion after a couple years away. The Buckeyes boast six returning All-Americans and have only one starter ranked outside of the top-15.
Last week's "Dual of the Week" (Wisconsin/Iowa State) was certainly memorable. The past history between the schools indicates it will be, as well. Below is a match-by-match breakdown of the probable starters for both squads.
125 lbs - #25 Eddie Ventresca/Cooper Flynn (Virginia Tech) vs. #11 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
We'll start with a challenge for either of Virginia Tech's redshirt freshmen, as #11 Malik Heinselman looks large at the smallest weight class. Eddie Ventresca earned his second win over the year (first official) over Cooper Flynn in the finals of the Southeast Open. All of their previous bouts have been won by Ventresca and with razor-thin margins. Flynn came out of high school as a slightly more heralded recruit and did better last season against outside competition. The starter on Friday could end up being whomever coach Robie feels gives the Hokies the best chance to win against Heinselman. The Buckeye veteran started his year with a title at the Michigan State Open. Heinselman downed former Hokie Joey Prata (Oklahoma), a 2022 NCAA round of 12 finisher in the finals. He's seeking to become an NCAA All-American for the first time. Despite earning top-12 seeds at the last two tournaments, Heinselman only has two combined wins at nationals to show for it. In a dual where Ohio State is a definite favor, getting an upset here could change the entire trajectory of the meet.
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