Virginia Tech All-American Bryce Andonian (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Opening night for the ACC did not disappoint. The Virginia Tech vs NC State dual got the national spotlight and they put on a show. North Carolina and Pitt both took lopsided wins on the road. We are off and running in conference competition; let's take a look at how the weekend played out.
#28 North Carolina at Duke
North Carolina took on their Tobacco Road rival and left Cameron Indoor Stadium with a statement win. The Tar Heels won the first eight matches, including seven bonus-point victories to open ACC competition.
One of the highlights of the evening was the return of Clay Lautt to the UNC lineup. Lautt has been out since the Appalachian State dual in mid-December. He returned to put on an offensive showcase, taking an 18-3 tech fall over Gaetano Console. Lautt's season record moves to 6-2 for the season. Lautt will be favored in his next two matches before a top-10 showdown with Mekhi Lewis.
It was a difficult evening for Duke, but they ended the dual with two big wins. Vince Baker edged Max Shaw at 197 to stretch his season record to 5-3; this was a quality win for Baker who has quietly started off strong for the Blue Devils; two of his three losses are to top-12 ranked wrestlers. Jonah Neisenbaum ended the night on a positive note for Duke, gritting out a hard-fought 3-1 sudden victory win over Brandon Whitman.
The Tar Heels put on an offensive display after opening the dual with a forfeit win for Jack Wagner. Their lowest match point total on the evening was from Jace Palmer in a 7-6 decision over Logan Agin. The next six matches were bonus point victories for UNC. Lachlan McNeil dominated in a 17-2 tech fall over Jarred Papscy. Zach Sherman bounced back after a loss last week, gaining his first bonus point win of the year with a 12-1 major decision over Patrick Rowland. Austin O'Connor continued his undefeated season, adding his 11th bonus point victory with a first-period pin of Preston Decker.
In the second half of the dual, Joey Mazzara continued the scoring spree with a 12-2 major decision over Gabe Dinette who was wrestling in his second match of the season. Following the return of Clay Lautt, Gavin Kane worked for the tech fall, but fell just short with an 18-5 major decision over Luke Chakonis to round out the wins for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels will return to Carmichael Arena to host Virginia next Friday night while Duke will head across the triangle to face NC State.
No. 28 North Carolina 37, Duke 6
125: No. 22 Jack Wagner by Forfeit
133: Jace Palmer over Logan Agin 7-6 Dec
141: No. 13 Lachlan McNeil over Jarred Papcsy 17-2 TF
149: No. 25 Zach Sherman over Patrick Rowland 12-1 MD
157: No. 4 Austin O'Connor over Preston Decker Fall 2:32
165: Joey Mazzara over Gabe Dinette 12-2 MD
174: No. 9 Clay Lautt over Gaetano Console 18-3 TF
184: No. 14 Gavin Kane over Luke Chakonis 18-5 MD
197: Vincent Baker over Max Shaw 3-2 Dec
285: No. 22 Jonah Nisenbaum over Brandon Whitman 3-1 SV Dec
#24 Pittsburgh at Virginia
The Panthers made the trip to Charlottesville to open ACC competition and left with a lopsided win over the Hoos. Pitt looked impressive from the first whistle and showed that they will be in contention for the ACC dual title. Virginia did not have the same pop that they did in their strong performance at the Virginia Duals and opened their home slate with a disappointing loss.
The dual opened at 157 with Dazjon Casto picking up a 14-8 win over Jake Keating--Casto was able to break open the match with a six-point move at the end of the second period. This was a much-needed win for Casto, who has been inconsistent to this point and will be looking to steady his performance in ACC duals. Holden Heller followed that up with an upset win over Justin McCoy. The Panthers added their third-straight win to start the dual with a decision win from Luca Augustine at 174.
The Hoos got on the board in one of the most anticipated matches of the dual. Neil Antrassian nabbed an upset win over Reece Heller. It was a very entertaining, back-and-forth match with some outstanding scrambles. 184 is one of, if not the toughest, weights in the ACC; it features five wrestlers in the top-20 and two in the top-10. It will be a very fun weight to watch and sort out over the next month. At 197, Nino Bonaccorsi earned a 7-4 decision over Michael Battista who was coming off two upset wins in Hampton. Battista was able to slow Nino down after giving up two takedowns in the first, but his late takedown in the third wasn't enough to knock off the undefeated Bonaccorsi.
Jake Slinger opened the second half of the dual with a 4-0 decision over Jessie Knight, who was back in his first bout returning from an injury at Midlands. Colton Camacho put on an impressive display in a 14-1 major decision over Patrick McCormick at 125. Micky Phillippi followed that up with a 7-3 win over Marlon Yarbrough. In another highly-anticipated matchup, Cole Matthews won a tight 4-1 decision over Brian Courtney in his fourth official match of the season. Jarod Verkleeren was able to end the night on a positive note for the Hoos, notching an upset win over Tyler Badgett. Verk picked up a takedown early in the first and never relinquished the lead--this was a good win for him returning to the lineup from an injury.
While the Panthers took the win, I think the Hoos see a lot of results that they feel confident that they can flip. I'm looking forward to seeing how both teams respond to this dual. Pitt will look to continue their momentum as they head back to Virginia again next week to take on a top-10 Virginia Tech squad. The Hoos will look to bounce back and make the adjustments they need as they work to knock off the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Friday.
No. 24 Pitt 25, Virginia 6
157: Dazjon Casto dec. No. 33 Jake Keating 14-8
165: No. 31 Holden Heller dec. No. 15 Justin McCoy 9-3
174: Luca Augustine dec. Vic Marcelli 4-1
184: No. 20 Neil Antrassian dec. No. 17 Reece Heller 7-3
197: No. 2 Nino Bonaccorsi dec. No. 24 Michael Battista 7-4
HWT: Jake Slinger dec. Jessie Knight 4-0
125: Colton Camacho maj. dec. Patrick McCormick 14-1
133: No. 7 Micky Phillippi dec. Marlon Yarbrough II 7-3
141: No. 3 Cole Matthews dec. No. 29 Brian Courtney 4-1
149: No. 30 Jarod Verkleeren dec. No. 29 Tyler Badgett 5-3
North Carolina State at Virginia Tech
It is difficult to put into words how incredible this night was for ACC wrestling. Rivalry dual. Top-10 teams. 20 ranked wrestlers. Upsets. Sudden victory galore. The return of All-American Bryce Andonian in a top-10 showdown. Round six of Hidlay-Bolen. And to cap it off, the upset of a top-10 wrestler by a hometown kid is what iced the dual for the Hokies. This has become a must-watch matchup every year, and I am glad I was there to see the spectacle in person.
The dual opened up with a sudden victory upset from Jarrett Trombley over Eddie Ventresca. While Ventresca was more offensive throughout the match, Trombley showed his counter-offense skills and both wrestlers were nearly able to finish takedowns in regular time. It was a wild sequence to end the match--Ventresca snagged a low single off the whistle and nearly had Trombley on his hind parts before he was able to catch a whizzer and hip over. While Ventresca fought into him, Trombley was able to hold him in danger for a three-count and the winning takedown. Sam Latona got the Hokies on the board with a 3-1 decision over Kai Orine. It was close on the scoreboard despite Latona getting in on several takedowns and getting Orine's leg into the air. Orine showed some incredible body awareness and defensive skills to fight off Latona's attempts.
Ryan Jack took a 2-1 decision over Tom Crook on the strength of riding time. Crook narrowed the gap from CKLV where Jack won an 8-2 decision. In a battle of true freshman phenoms at 149, Caleb Henson was dominant in a 6-1 decision over Jackson Arrington. Henson got a takedown halfway through the first period and never looked back. They traded escapes and Henson added a second takedown and a rideout to end the match. This will be a fun series to watch over the next few years.
#6 Bryce Andonian made his official debut for the season at 157 facing #7 Ed Scott in a match that reminded everyone why you can't look away when either of these guys is wrestling. Andonian took an early shot and when Scott locked his upper body, Andonian tossed him to his back for 2 and 4 to open the match. On the restart, Andonian locked up a cradle and rolled through to pick up another four-count--but Scott was able to get to his feet and used a body lock and trip to take Andonian to his back for 2 and 4. This all happened in the first two minutes of the match--10-6 Andonian. On the restart, Scott loaded up a 2-on-1 and tried to roll through to tilt but Andonian was able to cast his hips over and catch Scott for another set of 2 and 4. 16-6 to end the first and the craziness wasn't over. While he pushed to get the tech fall, Andonian added 8 more points through takedowns and escapes that Scott countered with two reversals to hold him to a 24-10 major decision. This whole match was beautiful chaos and incredibly entertaining to watch. I can't wait until they match up again.
At 165, true freshman Matty Singleton was able to counter a Connor Brady takedown in sudden victory to take a 5-3 decision. Following this match, the Wolfpack lost a team point due to Singleton "throwing" his headgear. While it is the rule, this is an obnoxious interpretation. He threw his headgear to his bench, he didn't spike it, he wasn't trying to show anyone up. He was excited and it cost his team a point; I'm very glad the dual didn't come down to a single point. Mekhi Lewis was pushing for a major decision against Alex Faison, but ended with an 8-2 decision.
In Hidlay-Bolen VI we saw the most points on the board that we have ever seen in this matchup. Bolen was able to slow Hidlay down early and keep him from scoring off his underhook. After a scoreless first, Bolen got a quick escape and then was able to get a takedown at the end of the second to take a 3-0 lead into the third. Hidlay got a quick escape and was pushing for a takedown to even it up. He was able to get to a body lock off a single leg and fight through Bolen's whizzer to get the tying takedown with 20 seconds to go. In sudden victory, Hidlay got to the same position and again worked through Bolen's defense to take the 5-3 decision and even the series 3-3.
Going into the final two bouts, it was starting to look better for the Wolfpack and they were favored in both matches. At 197, Andy Smith was able to slow down the very dangerous Isaac Trumble and keep him from scoring on his feet. It was tied at one late in the third when Trumble got in deep on a shot. Smith showed some incredible defense and amazingly strong hips to not only stop the takedown, but break Trumble's grip and get to his legs on a reshot and earn the winning takedown. Cassell Coliseum erupted when the Christiansburg-native pulled his second top-10 upset of the season; this made the team score 16-11 going into the final match, meaning the Wolfpack would need a pin from Owen Trephan to take the win. Catka and Trephan were very evenly matched and both were able to fight off takedown attempts--sending the bout into sudden victory for the fourth time on the night. Trephan countered a Catka shot in the extra frame to take the 3-1 decision but it wasn't enough to get the win for the Wolfpack.
The Hokies are now in the driver's seat for the ACC dual title, but it is far from over. They will welcome a feisty Pitt team into Cassell Coliseum on Friday. NC State will look to bounce back at home when they host Duke.
No. 8 Virginia Tech 16, No. 5 NC State 14
125: No. 29 Jarrett Trombley def. No. 20 Eddie Ventresca 3-1 dec.
133: No. 5 Sam Latona def. No. 25 Kai Orine 3-1 dec.
141: No. 6 Ryan Jack def. No. 12 Tom Crook 2-1 dec.
149: No. 9 Caleb Henson def. No. 15 Jackson Arrington 6-1 dec.
157: No. 6 Bryce Andonian def. No. 7 Ed Scott 24-10 major dec.
165: No. 32 Matty Singleton def. No. 20 Connor Brady 5-3 SV1
174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis def. No. 32 Alex Faison 8-2 dec.
184: No. 3 Trent Hidlay def. No. 7 Hunter Bolen 5-3 dec. SV1
197: No. 26 Andy Smith def. No. 6 Isaac Trumble 3-2
285: No. 12 Owen Trephan def. No. 23 Hunter Catka 3-1 SV1