Virginia 165 lber Justin McCoy (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
After a slow few weeks over the winter break, we had a very busy weekend in ACC country. Five of the six teams were in action, with North Carolina and Virginia Tech wrestling multiple days. It was a wild weekend featuring huge upsets for and against ACC wrestlers. We are entering our final week before ACC competition and most teams seem to be rounding into shape. There are some lingering questions about some lineups and injuries--I'm hopeful that we will see everyone back in action this week and ready to go for the first ACC duals. Let's take a look at what went down this weekend.
Duke: The Blue Devils were off this week and will not return to action until January 19th against Central Michigan.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels traveled to Pennsylvania for a weekend of action at the F&M Open Friday, followed by a dual against Penn on Saturday.
The Tar Heels started the trip off with a successful day at F&M. Lachlan McNeil (141), Austin O'Connor (157) and Gavin Kane (184) all took home titles, while Jack Wagner (125) and Jayden Scott (149) made the finals and took runner-up honors. Spencer Moore (125) took 3rd place, Max Shaw (197) finished in 4th. Zach Sherman also made his season debut, going 2-0 before medically defaulting from the tournament.
The dual against Penn started at 165 with a decision win from Joey Mazzara. Gino Esposito lost by tech fall at 174, filling in for Clay Lautt. Gavin Kane got the Tar Heels back on the board with a decision win over Maximus Hale; he wrestled well and was able to get to his offense. Cade Lautt also lost by tech fall at 197, filling in for Max Shaw. This was followed by a 2-0 loss by Brandon Whitman.
When they wrapped back around to 125, Jack Wagner won a very competitive match with Ryan Wagner. Jace Palmer got the nod at 133, filling in for Joey Melendez; he lost, but was able to hold a very good Michael Colaiocco to a decision. Lachlan McNeil continued his stellar weekend with a dominating 12-1 major decision over a ranked Carmen Ferrante. I like the progress that McNeil has made through the season and he is in a good spot going into conference duals.
Zach Sherman made the start at 149 against #10 Doug Zapf. I was surprised by this--the coaching staff said they would ease Sherman back into the lineup after his return from injury. I take it that they, and he, felt good about his performance on Friday and were confident that he was ready to go. He wrestled a good match, but struggled toward the end of the match and dropped a 7-4 decision. He looked good, he moved well and was able to get to his offense; he'll just need more mat time to be back to full competition shape. In the marquee match of the dual, Austin O'Connor dominated #15 Anthony Artalona in a 13-5 major decision. O'Connor was on the attack the whole match, getting the final takedown in the closing seconds to earn the major. O'Connor has looked fantastic since returning to the lineup and is ready to go after another ACC and NCAA title.
The Tar Heels will be back in action on Saturday against Harvard and Brown.
No. 27 Penn 19, No. 25 North Carolina 17
125: No. 33 Jack Wagner (UNC) over No. 31 Ryan Wagner (Penn) (7-5 Dec)
133: No. 8 Michael Colaiocco (Penn) over Jace Palmer (UNC) (10-4 Dec)
141: No. 21 Lachlan McNeil (UNC) over No. 30 Carmen Ferrante (Penn) (12-1 MD)
149: No. 10 Doug Zapf (Penn) over Zach Sherman (UNC) (7-4 Dec)
157: No. 4 Austin O'Connor (UNC) over No. 15 Anthony Artalona (Penn) (13-5 MD)
165: Joey Mazzara (UNC) over No. 29 Lucas Revano (Penn) (5-4 Dec)
174: No. 18 Nick Incontrera (Penn) over Gino Esposito (UNC) (18-0 TF)
184: No. 17 Gavin Kane (UNC) over Maximus Hale (Penn) (7-3 Dec)
197: No. 33 Cole Urbas (Penn) over Cade Lautt (UNC) (16-0 TF)
285: No. 27 Ben Goldin (Penn) over Brandon Whitman (UNC) (2-0 Dec)
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack welcomed the Bearcats of Binghamton to Reynolds Coliseum on Friday night to open their 2023 home slate. As expected, NC State took care of business and ended up on top of the lopsided 36-3 score. The theme of the evening with half of the Wolfpack lineup picking up extra points on the night. Ryan Jack, Trent Hidlay and Owen Trephan won by major decision, while Ed Scott and Isaac Trumble added pins. The only loss for NC State came at 125 with Jarrett Trombley dropping a 3-1 decision; it will be worth watching in conference duals to see how he wrestles right off of the scale.
Kai Orine earned a lopsided decision, as did true freshman Jackson Arrington; both of these guys continue to show growth and improvement through the season and are in a good spot moving into conference duals. As previously discussed, the full-time starter at 165 and 174 haven't been decided; Derek Fields and Alex Faison got the nod this weekend. Fields wrestled well enough to get the decision win, but never really pulled away in the match. Faison looked solid in his 7-3 decision over a scrappy Sam DePrez and seems to have the momentum at 174.
One final note is an adjustment to the standings in my ACC awards. Owen Trephan has been removed from contention in the best hair category. Though his major decision proved that he didn't fall victim to the Sampson curse, I'm still saddened that he cut those glorious locks.
No. 6 NC State 36, Binghamton 3
125: Micah Roes def. No. 24 Jarrett Trombley (NCSU), 3-1 dec.
133: No. 25 Kai Orine (NCSU) def. Ivan Garcia, 8-2
141: No. 6 Ryan Jack (NCSU) def. Christian Gannone, 12-2, maj. dec.
149: No. 17 Jackson Arrington (NCSU) def. Michael Zarif, 5-0 dec.
157: No. 10 Ed Scott (NCSU) def. Conner Decker, Fall
165: Derek Fields (NCSU) def. Dimitri Gamkrelidze, 6-4 dec.
174: Alex Faison (NCSU) def. Sam DePrez, 7-3
184: No. 3 Trent Hidlay (NCSU) def. No. 23 Jacob Nolan, 13-4, maj. dec.
197: No. 7 Isaac Trumble (NCSU) def. Cayden Bevis, 16-2, Fall
285: No. 13 Owen Trephan (NCSU) def. No. 21 Cory Day, 11-0, maj dec.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers hosted West Virginia in the wrestling edition of the Backyard Brawl. After a strong first half of the season, Pitt opened the second half of the year on a down note, dropping the dual to WVU. I'm hopeful that this is a one-off as we didn't see the same type of performance from several key parts of the lineup that we have seen all year.
Colton Camacho wrestled well against a very tough Killian Cardinale and dropped a close decision. Micky Phillippi looked great throughout the match on his way to a major decision, then the wheels kind of fell off for the Panthers. Cole Matthews dropped his first match of the year, giving up a late takedown to unranked Jordan Titus to lose 3-1. Matthews often wrestles close matches, and his ability to win those close matches helped get him onto the podium last year, but this didn't seem like that type of match. It looked to me like Matthews just had an off-match; it happens to everyone (except Cael). He wasn't able to finish any of his attacks and wasn't as crisp on his feet as he usually is. Credit to Titus for an absolutely beautiful takedown to get the win. I expect Matthews to bounce back from this and remind the nation why he was ranked #1.
Tyler Badgett wrestled a solid match and went into sudden victory scoreless against Sam Hillegas. The sudden victory period was wild. Badgett got in deep but wasn't able to finish and ended in a long scramble; Hillegas got the winning takedown on the restart. Dan Mancini got the nod at 157 over a struggling Dazjon Casto. He wrestled well for the majority of the match but gave up a late takedown to lose 3-1. The Peyton Hall pin over Holden Heller hides the fact that it was actually an awesome match. The first period had several good exchanges where Heller showed his defensive and counter-offense skills--both he and Hall were close to takedowns multiple times. Heller initiated a wild scramble in the second where he was able to lock up a cradle; while trying to turn Hall, he dropped his hips and Hall was able to capitalize and catch the head and bottom leg to get the fall.
Luca Augustine was able to get the Panthers back on the board with a hard-fought 3-2 decision. Reece Heller, coming off an outstanding performance at the Midlands, dropped a 7-2 decision to Anthony Carman. Heller looked good on his feet, but didn't wrestle well on the mat. I would generally say his mat wrestling is a strength and he is great at positioning on bottom and getting reversals, but this was not the case on Sunday. Nino absolutely dominated in his match. He controlled the match from the first whistle and was working hard to get the tech fall but finished one point shy in the 18-4 major. Jake Slinger got the nod at 285 and lost 10-4; Coach Gavin said Dayton Pitzer would only be used if the dual was on the line so they can best use his five matches to evaluate whether to pull the redshirt.
The Panthers will be back in action on Friday against Buffalo; I would expect a very fired-up Pitt squad ready to send a message.
West Virginia 24, No. 21 Pitt 11
125: No. 7 Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Colton Camacho (Pitt), 5-3 (WVU leads, 3-0)
133: No. 7 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) maj. dec. Davin Rhoads (WVU), 10-2 (Pitt leads, 4-3)
141: Jordan Titus (WVU) dec. No. 1 Cole Matthews (Pitt), 3-1 (WVU leads, 6-4)
149: No. 28 Sam Hillegas (WVU) dec. No. 25 Tyler Badgett (Pitt), 2-0 SV (WVU leads, 9-4)
157: No. 27 Alex Hornfeck (WVU) dec. Dan Mancini (Pitt), 3-1 (WVU leads, 12-4)
165: No. 12 Peyton Hall (WVU) pins No. 28 Holden Heller (Pitt), 3:43 (WVU leads, 18-4)
174: Luca Augustine (Pitt) dec. Brody Conley (WVU), 3-2 (WVU leads, 18-7)
184: No. 30 Anthony Carman (WVU) dec. No. 14 Reece Heller, 7-2 (WVU leads, 21-7)
197: No. 2 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) maj. dec. Brian Finnerty (WVU), 18-4 (WVU leads, 21-11)
HWT: No. 28 Michael Wolfgram (WVU) dec. Jake Slinger (Pitt), 10-4 (WVU wins, 24-11)
Virginia: The Hoos took part in a showcase dual against in-state foe George Mason at the ARMS Duals hosted by St. Christopher's School in Richmond on Saturday. UVA wrestled well up and down the lineup. They got bonus points from Justin McCoy in a dominant display at 165 and a solid offensive day from Michael Battista earned him a major decision at 197. Jarod Verkleeren avenged his loss at the Midlands with a 2-1 decision over Nate Higley and Neil Antrassian continued his strong season with a controlling decision win.
In injury news, Ethan Weatherspoon got the start, and the win, at 285 after the injuries to Gabe Christensen and Jessie Knight. Denton Spencer got another win filling in for Jake Keating, who has been out since the Northwestern dual.
Two true freshmen got the nod for this dual, Kyle Montaperto at 125 and Garrett Grice at 133. Montaperto dropped a 6-2 decision in what was an uncharacteristic performance compared to what we've seen from him this season. He wasn't able to get his offense going and struggled to get off bottom; far different from the dynamic performances we have seen from him thus far. Garrett Grice was able to grit out a 4-3 decision, holding off a late offensive barrage from Josh Jones. Grice looked a step slower, but I'd attribute that to getting back to competition after a month off. He is a very dangerous wrestler and has put together an impressive 9-2 record so far this year. The final decision on the redshirt status for both Montaperto and Grice will need to be made soon, this was their fourth event and they are only allowed five to retain their redshirt status; there may be some tough choices for Coach Garland and crew coming soon.
The Hoos are back in action at the Virginia Duals this weekend where they will face Ohio, Navy, Kent State and Maryland.
VIRGINIA 26, GEORGE MASON 6
165: No. 14 Justin McCoy major dec. Drew Dickson (GMU), 13-3 - UVA 4, GMU 0
174: Jeremy Seymour (GMU) dec. Vic Marcelli, 4-3 - UVA 4, GMU 3
184: No. 18 Neil Antrassian dec. Malachi DuVall (GMU), 10-5 - UVA 7, GMU 3
197: Michael Battista major dec. Jon List (GMU) , 14-5 - UVA 11, GMU 3
285: Ethan Weatherspoon dec. Tyler Kocak (GMU), 6-3 - UVA 14, GMU 3
125: Markel Baker (GMU) dec. Kyle Montaperto, 6-2 - UVA 14, GMU 6
133: Garrett Grice dec. Josh Jones (GMU), 4-3 - UVA 17, GMU 6
141: Dylan Cedeno dec. Anthony Glasl (GMU), 6-0 - UVA 20, GMU 6
149: No. 29 Jarod Verkleeren dec. Nate Higley (GMU), 2-1 - UVA 23, GMU 6
157: Denton Spencer dec. Loranzo Rajaonarivelo (GMU), 9-3 - UVA 26, GMU 6
Virginia Tech: The Hokies had a busy weekend; they hosted Cornell in the annual dual at the Moss Arts Center on Friday night, followed by a doubleheader in the DMV against George Mason and American.
I was able to attend the match at Moss, and I was incredibly impressed with the atmosphere. I went to the Moss dual a few years ago and it was a great atmosphere, but the match against Cornell had a much different feel in the theater.
The dual started at 157 with a Clayton Ulrey decision to kick off the Hokies. Keep your eye out for Bryce Andonian on the open circuit to get some matches and test out the foot soon. Connor Brady wrestled well and held a very good Julian Ramirez to a 3-0 decision. The absence of Mekhi Lewis hit the Hokies hard at 174; Foca was able to get the pin over Jordan Florence for big bonus points for the Big Red. Hunter Bolen looked solid in a 4-0 decision over Ethan Hatcher; it was hard for Bolen to get his offense going as he tried to get Hatcher to engage throughout the match.
Andy Smith struggled to slow down Jacob Cardenas but was able to get a late escape to keep it to a decision. Hunter Catka earned a 6-1 decision over Brendan Furman--much like the Bolen match, Catka had to pursue Furman all over the mat. In a very tight match at 125, Eddie Ventresca lost a heartbreaker in TB1 when he was unable to escape in the rideouts. Ventresca was in deep on a few shots, but was unable to finish earlier in the match. I'd love to see him be more aggressive and force the issue with his offense; he can be very dynamic on his feet and could put up more points.
In the highlight of the evening, Sam Latona got the theater roaring with an upset win over Vito Arujau. They wrestled at CKLV and it was a close match, but Latona was unable to get through Vito's great defense. It was easy to see from watching Latona working out before the dual that he was locked in and pumped up for this opportunity in front of his home crowd. He did not disappoint. He fended off an immediate shot from Vito then dropped in on a reshot-he was able to get the leg in the air but Vito kicked out. Latona got in deep on a second inside single and finished the takedown at the end of the first, Vito escaped and added a second escape to start the second. Latona was again able to get in deep on an inside single and got the leg into the air; Vito was able to get back to the mat and create a scramble and nearly get a takedown of his own but Latona fought it off. In the third, Latona got out in about 30 seconds to get the 3-2 lead. He fended off Vito's attacks and got in another shot of his own to bring the clock down, he locked up a front headlock to run the clock out and take the one-point decision. The crowd was electric after this match.
The air was sucked back out of the theater at 141 when Vince Cornella took a 12-4 major over Tom Crook. Cornella attacked relentlessly and Crook was never able to get to his own offense. At 149, three-time NCAA champ Yianni Diakomihalis faced true freshman Caleb Henson in a marquee match. Henson wrestled well and put up a valiant effort, but Yianni took the 6-2 decision. I mean this with all due respect--Yianni is a freak. He is a phenomenal wrestler and a generational talent--Henson keeping him to a decision and wrestling as composed as he did is a victory in itself.
After the tough loss on Friday night, the Hokies traveled north for duals against George Mason and American. Against GMU, they got bonus points from a pin from Caleb Henson and major decisions from Sam Latona, Collin Gerardi, Andy Smith and Hunter Catka. In the dual against American, they got bonus from a pin from Kolton Clark, tech falls from Tom Crook and Sam Fisher, and a major decision from Brandon Wittenberg. In the final bout, Hunter Catka won by disqualification when he was injured by an illegal move. Righter was warned after a potentially dangerous call for grasping and twisting Catka's hand/fingers. On the restart immediately after the warning, Righter grabbed and twisted Catka's right hand; he was called for the illegal hold and after Catka's injury time expired, Righter was disqualified for the move.
The Hokies travel to Boone, NC on Friday for a dual against Appalachian State in their final action before conference competition.
#8 Virginia Tech Hokies - 12, #12 Cornell Big Red - 22
125 - No. 21 Brett Ungar DEC No. 18 Eddie Ventresca, 2-1 TB1
133 - No. 8 Sam Latona DEC No. 3 Vito Arujau (Cornell), 3-2
141 - No. 22 Vince Cornella (Cornell) MAJ DEC No. 14 Tom Crook, 12-4
149 - No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) DEC No. 11 Caleb Henson, 6-2
157 - Clayton Ulrey DEC Gage McClenahan (Cornell), 4-2
165 - No. 7 Julian Ramirez (Cornell) DEC No. 22 Connor Brady, 3-0
174 - No. 5 Chris Foca (Cornell) Fall Jordan Florence, 4:14
184 - No. 7 Hunter Bolen DEC Ethan Hatcher (Cornell), 4-0
197 - No. 17 Jacob Cardenas (Cornell) DEC No. 21 Andy Smith, 10-3
285 - No. 23 Hunter Catka DEC Brendan Furman (Cornell), 6-1
No. 8 Virginia Tech - 34, George Mason - 3
125 - No. 18 Eddie Ventresca DEC Markel Baker (George Mason), 8-2
133 - No. 8 Sam Latona MAJ DEC Josh Jones (George Mason), 12-4
141 - Collin Gerardi MAJ DEC Shawn Nonaka (George Mason), 10-1
149 - No. 11 Caleb Henson FALL Nate Higley (George Mason), 6:15
157 - Clayton Ulrey DEC Loranzo Rajaonarivelo (George Mason), 8-3
165 - No. 22 Connor Brady DEC Drew Dickson (George Mason), 12-5
174 - Logan Messer (George Mason) DEC Jordan Florence, 6-2
184 - Sam Fisher DEC Malachi DuVall (George Mason), 11-7
197 - No. 21 Andy Smith MAJ DEC Jon List (George Mason), 14-2
285 - No. 23 Hunter Catka MAJ DEC Donovan Sprouse (George Mason), 14-3
133 - Brandon Wittenberg DEC Patrick Schellpfeffer (George Mason), 6-1
No. 8 Virginia Tech - 35, American University - 9
125 - Cooper Flynn DEC Maximilian Lette (American), 3-1
133 - Brandon Wittenberg MAJ DEC Shamil Kalmatov (American), 12-2
141 - No. 14 Tom Crook TECH FALL Ethan Szerencsits (American), 20-5 5:20
149 - Patrick Ryan (American) DEC Kylan Montgomery, 7-2
157 - Clayton Ulrey DEC Jack Nies (American), 10-4
165 - Caleb Campos (American) FALL Ty Finn, 2:13
174 - Kolton Clark FALL Lucas White (American), 1:51
184 - Sam Fisher TECH FALL Colin Shannon (American), 25-9
197 - No. 21 Andy Smith DEC Connor Bourne (American), 3-1
285 - No. 23 Hunter Catka DQ Isaac Righter (American)