Last year, the Virginia Tech Hokies’ wrestling team made its debut in the Moss Arts Center with three dual-meet victories. The environment for these three wrestling matches was definitely unique, and something fans were immediately hoping for a return of in future years.
That return is now upon us.
The Virginia Tech Hokies will host the Northern Iowa Panthers and North Carolina Tar Heels over the next two nights at the Moss Arts Center in what may be the best wrestling environment in America. The Hokies enter these two matches ranked 12th after a loss to Iowa State while the Panthers are unranked, and the Tar Heels are ranked 15th.
The Hokies will enter these matches as heavy favorites looking to avoid upsets with some bigger matches coming in the ACC. However, there are some intriguing matches on both of these nights especially between the Hokies and Tar Heels who have a few highly-ranked wrestlers.
One wrestler who may have a chance to have a big weekend is freshman David McFadden who is now ranked 19th at 165. McFadden has shown that the future is very bright for the Hokies, and will have a chance to shine under the bright lights with the potential to face two top 13 wrestlers depending on whether the Panthers use #8 Cooper Moore tonight.
McFadden isn’t the only one that may have a big weekend as 11th-ranked redshirt freshman Solomon Chishko may face two top 20 wrestlers. Chiskho may face fellow redshirt freshman and 19th-ranked Jake Koethe of UNI tonight while North Carolina’s #8 Joey Ward is slated to be Chiskho’s opponent on Saturday at 141.
If Chiskho can win both of these matchups, the redshirt freshman likely will be in the top 8 when the weight-class rankings are next updated.
The only other big matchup on Saturday night could be at the heavyweight level between UNI’s #15 Blaize Cabell and #3 Ty Walz. However, Walz and 197-wrestler #7 Jared Haught may both sit out to give seniors Austin Gabel and Dan Garwood a chance to wrestle on the big stage either tonight or tomorrow night.
The biggest matchup of the weekend will come Saturday at the 174 weight class between 2nd-ranked Ethan Ramos of North Carolina and 4th-ranked Zach Epperly of Virginia Tech. The winner of this matchup may end up being the top ranked wrestler at 174 after this weekend while both should still be in the top 5 win or lose.
Epperly has dealt with some injuries, but this matchup is his chance to make a national statement that he is back and ready to be one of multiple Hokies that are top contenders for an individual national title.
Zack Zavatsky has a big matchup on Saturday also as the #14 wrestler at 184 will face UNC’s 20th-ranked Alex Utley while David McFadden’s guaranteed top 20 matchup will be against UNC’s 13th-ranked John Michael Staudenmayer at the 165 weight class.
A loss this weekend for the Hokies would be extremely disappointing, but Virginia Tech can’t afford to underestimate their unranked opponents. However, this weekend has the potential to be another celebration of the growth of Virginia Tech wrestling into one of the top programs in the nation under Kevin Dresser.
Hokie fans, definitely check out this wrestling even if you have the chance to in a fantastic environment at the Moss Arts Center.