Cassell Coliseum was full of energy and excitement as Hokie Nation showed up in numbers for the VT Wrestling home opener and debut of first year head coach, Tony Robie. This was a great test for Virginia Tech to open their season, facing the 21st ranked team in the nation, the Stanford Cardinal. Both teams had four of their starters ranked nationally in their weight classes. For Stanford, the four of them won their matchups today. But it wasn’t enough as Virginia Tech won 22-12 to move to 1-0 on the season.
The first match was in the 125 pound weight class as Kevin Norstrem, a redshirt freshman, made his debut with a 6-1 loss to Connor Schram, who is ranked tenth in the nation. He battled hard in the early period but Schram, the redshirt senior, pulled away in the second and third period. That put the Hokies behind early, trailing 3-0.
Then, Virginia Tech got on a run. winning the next three weight classes. Redshirt senior, Dennis Gustafson, dominated his opponent, Gabriel Townsell, winning 12-1 in a major decision. It was a great start to the season for the upperclassmen.
Brent Moore, a redshirt freshman, followed up Gustafson’s victory with a 6-1 win against Isaiah Locsin, a redshirt junior, in the 141 pound weight class. That was a big win for a new starter to the team this season, and it’ll give him some big confidence moving forward.
Then came a familiar face to the mat, Solomon Chishko, who is ranked 4th in the country in his 149 pound weight class. He faced unranked Requir van der Merwe and had some trouble early on. At the end of the second period, he trailed 1-0. But the redshirt junior battled back, tied it up at 3-3, and won 5-3 on a take down in overtime. It was the closest matchup of the afternoon and was arguably the most entertaining. By the end of this matchup, Virginia Tech led the match overall at 10-3.
In the 157-pound weight class, Virginia Tech’s Ryan Blees, a new starter this season, opened up against Stanford’s Paul Fox, ranked 9th in the country. Blees hung tough with Fox, trailing 4-2 at the end of the first period. He got within one point in the second period, but ended up falling 7-4 to the redshirt junior. Stanford cut the deficit to four, trailing 10-6.
For Hokie fans, it was great to see redshirt sophomore, David McFadden back on the mat, after missing last season due to an ACL injury he suffered at the 2015 NCAA championships, where he was an All-American. He came into the season ranked 9th in the country and today, backed up the ranking with a 12-4, major decision victory over Brandon Dallavia of Stanford in the 165 pound weight class. McFadden will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as the season continues.
The second-to-last victory of the day for Stanford came in the 174 pound weight class as Stanford’s Keaton Subjeck, ranked 17th in the nation, won 4-1 against Virginia Tech’s Hunter Bolen, Bolen, a true freshman from Christiansburg, kept it relatively close the entire way. He’ll look to build off of this performance in his next outing.
The next two weight classes featured Virginia Tech’s top two veterans, Zach Zavatsky and Jared Haught.
Zavatsky was the closest wrestler to getting a pin all afternoon but dismantled Stanford’s Austin Flores, 19-2, in a tech fall victory in the 184 pound weight class. An All-American a season ago, Zavatsky is ranked 6th in the country in his weight class and looked really impressive in the win. He was the only wrestler to win by a tech fall today.
Ranked second in the country, Jared Haught also took care of business against Stanford’s Nathan Traxler in the 197 pound weight class. It was high scoring and Haught had many takedowns in his 12-5 win. Following his victory, Virginia Tech led the match 22-9.
Despite the match already being mathematically over, the heavyweights of both teams in the 285 pound weight class was a great matchup. Nathan Butler of Stanford, ranked 12th in the country, needed all three periods to defeat Virginia Tech’s Andrew Dunn but ended up shutting him out 3-0.
With the victory, Virginia Tech gets its first win for new head coach, Tony Robie. The team was able to accomplish many things today, especially getting their new starters great experience against a well coached Stanford team. The Hokies looked well prepared and in shape for the season today, credit that to Robie and his new coaching staff.
“I feel like some people are doubting our team a little bit, just because we’ve been through a lot the last year or two. But the core guys, I think me, Jared, McFadden, Sully are stepping up really and lead the team,” said redshirt junior, Zach Zavatasky.
The Hokies will have their next regular season matchup on Friday, November 17th as they travel to Chattanooga.