NC State 285 lber Owen Trephan (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
It's finally here! ACC duals start tonight and they will start with some fireworks. All the action will be available through the ACC Network. NC State/Virginia Tech will be on ACC Network while the other two duals will be streamed on ACC Network Extra. I'm heading down to Blacksburg to check out the dual and will have coverage from there.
#28 North Carolina vs Duke
The Tar Heels will take the short trip to Durham to face the Blue Devils; they feature six ranked wrestlers and we should see at least five of them in action. Clay Lautt has been out since mid-December and the staff has reported that they likely will not wrestle him this week, but that he is available, if necessary. Even without Lautt, the Tar Heels are still heavy favorites in this matchup.
Duke has been led by Jonah Niesenbaum who comes into ACC competition with a 16-3 record; he will certainly be in competition to take the ACC title at the top weight. Duke has moved their lineup around a lot to start the season, but they are settling in on a final roster. This will include the return of Gabe Dinette who started at 165 last year for the Blue Devils. Patrick Rowland has been off to a much better start this season, improving from 6-21 last year to 11-9 coming into the ACC duals.
North Carolina has dealt with a fluctuating lineup due to a series of injuries to some of their top wrestlers. We already touched on Clay Lautt; Austin O'Connor was out until mid-December and Zach Sherman returned to the lineup two weeks ago to start his season. The Tar Heels have been led by Jack Wagner, Lachlan McNeil and Gavin Kane who have been consistent forces in the lineup this year, all three have racked up 16 wins to start the season. Wagner is 16-5 while McNeil and Kane are both 16-4. O'Connor is undefeated since returning and enters ACC duals at 11-0, while Sherman has gone 3-2.
141--McNeil is the favorite, but Papscy is a seasoned vet that can't be counted out of a match.
165--Mazzara has had a good season so far and is the likely favorite; I'm interested to see what form Dinette is in upon his return to the lineup.
285--Niesenbaum is a heavy favorite, but Guttridge has shown some grit in his appearances in the starting spot.
125: #22 Jack Wagner v Logan Agin
133: Jace Palmer/Joey Melendez v Drake Doolittle
141: #13 Lachlan McNeil v Jared Papscy
149: #25 Zach Sherman v Patrick Rowland
157: #4 Austin O'Connor v Preston Decker
165: Joey Mazzara v Gabe Dinette
174: #9 Clay Lautt*/Gino Esposito v Connor Becker
184: #14 Gavin Kane v Luke Chakonis
197: Max Shaw v Vince Baker/Brayden Ray
285: Aydin Guttridge v #22 Jonah Niesenbaum
#24 Pittsburgh vs Virginia
This has the potential to be a great dual. While Pitt has the edge on paper, Virginia is coming off a great weekend at the Virginia Duals and should field a fully healthy lineup for possibly the first time this season.
I'm not sure if Brian Courtney will get the nod at 141 or if he will be at an open this week to get more matches. But if he goes, the matchup with Cole Matthews is intriguing and a clash of styles. The Hoos have been led by Justin McCoy who comes in at 12-3, with his only losses to quality competition at Midlands. Neil Antrassian has been a great addition to the Cavaliers and checks in at 18-4 since his transfer from Penn. Michael Battista has been on a good run as well, he is 21-6 and is coming off two ranked wins at the Virginia Duals. Jarold Verkleeren has also gotten off to a solid 14-5 start to the season.
The Panthers have been led by Micky Phillippi, Cole Matthews and Nino Bonaccorsi. Phillippi checks in at 7-1 and Matthews is 11-1, while Bonaccorsi comes in undefeated at 8-0. They have also had success from transfers Holden and Reece Heller. They both had wrestled well at Hofstra, but seem to be on another level since moving to Pittsburgh. Holden is 7-4 at 165 while Reece is 15-2 at 184. The wildcard for the Panthers is Dayton Pitzer at heavyweight. Pitzer is a true freshman and went on an amazing run at the Midlands, knocking off two All-Americans, including NCAA finalist Cohlton Schultz. Pitzer is 5-1 on the year, but they have not made a concrete decision on his redshirt status. Pitzer has only used two of his five allotted dates, so the coaching staff still has some flexibility to make their decision.
141--I hope we get to see Matthews and Courtney
157--Keating is returning from injury and Casto and Mancini have been battling for the spot. This will be an opportunity for both guys to make a statement.
165--McCoy has impressed all season, Heller has some great wins but doesn't have a signature win yet. The Hoos will need McCoy to set the tone for the team and Heller is looking for a statement win.
184--Both wrestlers are transfers that have been off to a fantastic start. Both can be aggressive on offense. Antrassian is great on top, Heller is skilled at getting out and/or getting reversals on bottom--this was key in his Midlands title. This could be the best match of the dual.
197--Nino is the clear favorite, but I'm interested to see where Battista stacks up. He is coming off a great weekend and seems to be breaking through some of the mental hurdles that have held him back. This will have very contrasting styles--both wrestling styles and body styles.
125: Colton Camacho v Patrick McCormick
133: #7 Micky Phillippi v Marlon Yarbrough/Keyveon Roller
141: #3 Cole Matthews v #29 Brian Courtney/Dylan Cedeno
149: #29 Tyler Badgett v #30 Jarod Verkleeren
157: Dazjon Casto/Dan Mancini v #33 Jake Keating
165: #31 Holden Heller v #15 Justin McCoy
174: Luca Augustine v Vic Marcelli/Justin Phillips
184: #17 Reece Heller v #20 Neil Antrassian
197: #2 Nino Bonaccorsi v #24 Michael Battista
285: #5 Dayton Pitzer/Jake Slinger v Ethan Weatherspoon
#5 NC State vs #8 Virginia Tech
This has been the marquee ACC dual for the better part of the last decade. For the seventh time in the last eight years, this matchup will feature both teams being ranked in the top eight. Both teams have a ranked wrestler at every weight and there are a multitude of ACC champions and All-Americans that will take the mat Friday night. Earl did a great job breaking down the recent history of the rivalry earlier this week. The match will be the opening Friday Night Dual on the ACC Network and will have our esteemed broadcast team of Rock Harrison and Shawn Kenney on the call.
Let's take a quick look at the probable matchups and what we can expect to see tonight.
125: #29 Jarrett Trombley v #20 Eddie Ventresca
This will be a tight match. Trombley comes in at 7-6 while Ventresca is 11-5 though neither has notched a real signature win. This match will be huge for the team score as it is a very winnable match for either wrestler.
133: #25 Kai Orine v #5 Sam Latona
This will be our first look at a 133 Sam Latona in ACC competition. He has been off to a great start and has picked up some huge wins this season. He enters ACC competition with an 18-4 record, while Orine is 8-4. Both wrestlers have a lot of offensive firepower, if they let it fly. There will be a noticeable size difference here with Latona being one of the bigger 133's in the country. This could be an opportunity for Latona to work for bonus points, but Orine is strong defensively.
141: #6 Ryan Jack vs #12 Tom Crook
This could be one of the better matches of the dual, or it could be a runaway for Ryan Jack. Their first meeting was an 8-2 win for Jack at the CKLV. Jack is one of the most improved wrestlers in the country and has started the season 15-1. Crook is a true freshman who won the starting job with an impressive 8-0 start; he is 13-4 on the year with three of those losses to top-10 ranked wrestlers. When Crook is on he has the skill to beat Jack, but the Wolfpack holds an edge on experience in this one.
149: #15 Jackson Arrington v #9 Caleb Henson
This will be a battle of true freshmen who have both been very impressive to start the season. Arrington is 15-5 with four of those losses to top-10 ranked wrestlers and holds wins over Dom Demas and Chance Lamer. Henson has been one of, if not, the most impressive true freshmen in the country. He is 14-3 coming into tonight with losses to the #1, #8 and #14 wrestlers (Yianni, Mauller, and Zapf); he also has wins over three All-Americans (Sasso, Abas, and Millner). I am looking forward to the beginning of this rivalry.
157: #7 Ed Scott v #6 Bryce Andonian/Clayton Ulrey
This could be one of the turning points of the match depending on the decision of the Hokies staff. Bryce Andonian will be weighed in and available for this match, though a definitive decision has not been made as of the time of this article. Andonian was an All-American last year at 157 and returned from injury last week, wrestling three matches unattached. For the sake of everyone watching, I hope we get to see this match, because it will be amazing.
Both Andonian and Scott are aggressive offensively and unafraid to let it fly. Scott is 12-4 on the year and is the reigning ACC champ at 157; he is looking to send a message that this is his weight.
165: #32 Matty Singleton/Derek Fields v #20 Connor Brady
I'm very interested to see who takes the mat for the Wolfpack. Singleton has only used two of his five allotted dates, so Pat Pop and crew have some flexibility. Fields has gotten the nod in the past two duals and has notched two wins. Brady did not wrestle last week, but has had a solid year for the Hokies thus far. He is 15-5 with his losses to #1, #4, #7, #8 and #17 (O'Toole, Griffith, Ramirez, Kharchla, and Ogunsanya). Brady is a very difficult wrestler to score on and controls the mat well.
174: #32 Alex Faison v #3 Mekhi Lewis
While Faison (11-5) has wrestled well since he earned the spot, toppling Mekhi Lewis is a tall task. Lewis is 11-1 with his only loss to #2 Mikey Labriola in sudden victory. He is returning from a knee injury, but should be back to full speed and strength. Lewis will be hunting for bonus points in this match.
184: #3 Trent Hidlay v #7 Hunter Bolen
The saga continues. These two have met five times with Bolen holding a 3-2 advantage, though Hidlay has won the past two matches. This match is historically a very low-scoring affair, with all five matches decided by a score of 2-1 or 3-1. Hidlay, a two-time All-American, has been on a tear this year, entering at 14-1--his only loss was to #2 Parker Keckeisen, who he has also beat this season. He has scored BONUS in all but one win this year--which was a 7-point decision. Bolen was an All-American in 2021, and after a down year (by his standards) last season, he looks to be back in the form that got him on the podium. This match should be circled on the schedule of every wrestling fan as a must-watch.
197: #6 Isaac Trumble v #26 Andy Smith
Andy Smith had a great CKLV and is a solid defensive wrestler. He enters at 10-5 on the season; when he is able to get his offense going, he can put up points in bunches, but he has been slowed by the higher-tier wrestlers that he has faced. Trumble has been phenomenal this season. He comes in at 14-1 with his lone loss to #3 Michael Beard. Trumble has gotten very good at using his leverage and is a dangerous top wrestler--he has recorded six pins this year. Smith will need to be firing on all cylinders to slow down Trumble and minimize bonus points.
285: #12 Owen Trephan v #23 Hunter Catka
This could be a sneaky-good match. Trephan has impressed this year--even if he cut his hair--he enters at 15-3 with his losses to #9 Slaviouski (x2) and #2 Parris. He has gotten more aggressive on his feet and has been putting up a lot of points this year. Catka is 13-3 with losses to #8 Elam, #16 Orndorff and #22 Neisenbaum (in SV). Catka has the size and the skill to go with any heavyweight in the country, and when he is attacking he has the ability to use his speed to score. These two are pretty evenly matched, and depending on where the dual starts, it could all come down to this one.