The #6 Virginia Tech Hokies’ wrestling team started out the season impressively with a 32-3 victory over #13 Iowa State, but faced their toughest opponent on their dual-meet schedule against #2 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are arguably the favorites to win the national title while the Hokies are seen as a top contender to push for a national title.
Unfortunately, it was not Virginia Tech’s day in what was a wild afternoon in Cassell Coliseum.
#6 Virginia Tech lost to #2 Penn State 21-15 in front of a Virginia Tech wrestling record crowd of 5,097. The Hokies stayed right there early, but Penn State went on a significant run of victories at one point while pulling off enough upsets to counter-balance the Hokies’ upset victories and get the overall victory.
The dual-meet started out with arguably the wildest match of the day at 125 between sixth-ranked Joey Dance and second-ranked Nico Megaludis of Penn State. Dance made a late comeback in the third period from three points down before winning dramatically with an escape late in what was the sixth period of the match.
Dance’s victory was proof that after a disappointing finish last season, the Christiansburg native is ready to go win an individual national champion. No one usually takes Dance likely and he now is one of the favorites at the 125 weight class to win the national title and not just a contender this season.
After #18 Kevin Norstrem suffered a close, but competitive loss to Penn State’s #8 Jordan Conaway, Solomon Cishko pulled off the upset of the atternoon at 141. Cishko entered unranked at 141, but now is one of the fastest rising wrestlers in the country individually after a late takedown in the final 10 seconds against #2 Jimmy Gulibon allowed him to pull off a huge upset 3-1.
After the upset victory, Cishko received the honor of being the ACC Wrestler of the Week, and is proving a qualified replacement for one of the best wrestlers in Virginia Tech history, Devin Carter. Cishko is quickly rising up the rankings at 141 after his upset victory, and will look to keep his momentum going against North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
At this point, the Hokies seemed to be in great position to upset Penn State and make a significant statement nationally. However, #12 Sal Matriani suffered a surprising 15-0 technical fall loss to #2 Zain Retherford at 149 before the Hokies suffered their first upset loss of the day at 157 when #3 Nick Brascetta lost to #6 Jason Nolf 4-1 in a disappointing loss.
At that point, Virginia Tech needed to make some things happen with freshman David McFadden going against Shakur Rasheed at 165. McFadden struggled early and was down 4-1 at one point, but went on an incredible run with three takedowns compared to Rasheed’s two takedown to force an extra period with all of this coming after an injury timeout for McFadden.
In the extra period, McFadden quickly got the takedown he needed to get a huge victory which led to the loudest roar of the afternoon in Cassell Coliseum. McFadden has been quite impressive in his first two wrestling matches, and is going to be the next star for the Hokies that is ready to make a big impact this fall.
Unfortunately, the Hokies couldn’t build off the momentum with #3 Zach Epperly suffering an upset loss at 174 to #14 Bo Nickal before #14 Matt McCutcheon and #1 Morgan McIntosh got two more wins for Penn State at 184 and 197 over Zack Zavatsky and Jared Haught.
With McCutcheon’s victory being a major decision, Penn State was up 21-9 and forfeited the last match that was certain to be a loss to Ty Walz, leading to the final result of 21-15.
The loss was disappointing for Kevin Dresser and the Hokies, but Virginia Tech still proved that this is a deep team that has the talent to compete with the best. On this day, the Hokies suffered from having two of their best wrestlers have slightly off days, but the fact that Virginia Tech had over 5,000 fans in Cassell Coliseum is just a sign of the impressive program that Kevin Dresser has built.
Even with the loss, Virginia Tech’s spot in national rankings didn’t really change with many still seeing the Hokies as a national title contender especially with the breakouts of Solomon Chishko and David McFadden along with Joey Dance’s resurgence.