After getting a dominant 27-10 win at #17 Northern Iowa on Friday night, the #6 Virginia Tech Hokies travelled to Columbia, Missouri to face the #5 Missouri Tigers in a hostile environment and tough early season matchup. There were plenty of headlined matchups in this dual meet and while the Hokies are talented, they faced an extremely talented Missouri team that was ready against a Virginia Tech team coming off a match two days earlier on the road at Northern Iowa.
Virginia Tech was unable to get the job done as they lost 23-19 at Missouri though the Hokies likely will only drop a couple spots in the rankings due to that loss. The Hokies have some big time talents, but this team right now seems better built for tournaments than dual meets against the best at the collegiate level due in part to the Hokies’ weaknesses at 133 and 165.
However, it started out well for the Hokies as Joey Dance was once again quite good in a 8-4 victory over Missouri’s Aaron Assad in which Dance did not get taken down once again and also got a bonus point from riding time in what was a strong weekend for Dance with a chance that he may jump from third to first at 125.
However, Dominic Latona struggled once again right after as he lost 11th-ranked Jaydin Eierman in the first period due to another technical fall. Latona is the weakest wrestler in the Hokies’ lineup and you have to wonder if Latona will be able to hold on to this spot or if Kevin Dresser may try someone else at the 133 weight level soon.
Dennis Gustafson has been making a strong case for a jump into the top 20, but that will be put on hold for now as Gustafson was unable to get a win with a 9-3 loss to Missouri’s Zach Synon.
The Hokies’ sixth-ranked Solomon Chiskho had a tough fight against Missouri’s fourth-ranked Lavion Mayes in a huge match for both wrestlers and while Chiskho put up a strong fight, Mayes was able to get a comfortable 6-2 victory. However, Chiskho’s strong, competitive performance is a good sign that the sophomore has continued to improve and a rematch in a major tournament later in the year would be quite interesting.
Sal Mastriani faced his first real test of the season against Missouri’s tenth-ranked Joey Lavallee, and Mastriani struggled with a 15-5 major decision loss to Lavallee. Mike Ciavarro followed Mastriani and dropped another match via a 14-0 major decision loss to Missouri’s third-ranked Mike Lewis. While Lewis is ranked third in the nation, not getting a single point is a major disappointment for Ciavarro as he continues to be the other major weakness in the lineup.
At this point, the Hokies were down 20-3, but they were able to make it competitive in the end with some luck and big victories.
It started at 174 where Zach Epperly went down early against Missouri’s Dylan Wisman but then got a big victory in the first period with a technical fall to get the Hokies six points and cut the 17-point lead to 11. Epperly has gotten behind a couple times early, but the Christiansburg has absolutely taken over matchups and got a huge win this time with the technical fall.
Epperly continues to have some impressive performance that may have him poise to push for the top spot at 174 very soon.
Things took an unfortunate turn after in what was supposed to be a big match at 184 between Virginia Tech ninth-ranked Zack Zavatsky and Missouri’s 11th-ranked Willie Milkus with the match ending early due to an injury to Milkus, giving Virginia Tech six points to cut the lead to 20-15.
Then, the showdown happened at 197 between VT’s third-ranked Jared Haught, and Missouri top-ranked 197 wrestler and Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox. This match was extremely close between two guys who may end up meeting for the national title at 197 at the end of the season, but Cox was able to get a 2-0 win over Haught.
Haught may be the top challenger to the Olympic bronze medalist for the national title at 197 this year, and Haught should not drop any spots after losing to Cox.
Ty Walz came up in the final bout at heavyweight and the third-ranked heavyweight was able to take care of business with a 19-6 major decision win over Austin Myers in what was another strong performance for the experienced senior.
However, Walz’s late in wasn’t enough as the Hokies lost 23-19 and while Virginia Tech is likely disappointed, they have to factor to in the fact that this was on the road after facing a top 20 team on the road two nights earlier while Missouri hadn’t wrestled since facing Old Dominion in Norfolk a week earlier.
What is clear is that Virginia Tech has a couple major weaknesses at 133 and 165 that could cause some serious issues especially given how Dominic Latona lost by a technical fall today while both Latona and Mike Ciavarro may face some pressure for their spots. However, Joey Dance, Ty Walz, and Joey Dance all look quite strong while Jared Haught may now be the top contender to beat J’Den Cox at 197 this season.
Virginia Tech will now head back to Blacksburg with the focus shifting to preparation for the Las Vegas Invitational in what can be a great showcase opportunity for Virginia Tech’s top wrestlers if they want to try to get to the top spot at their weight classes before facing West Virginia in Parkersburg, West Virginia to weeks later.
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