After getting wins over Princeton and North Carolina, the #5 Virginia Tech Hokies headed down to the Hampton Coliseum for the Virginia Duals as the presumptive favorite and highest-ranked in a solid field of competitors for the two-day event. The Hokies were tested by a quality field but in the end, Virginia Tech showed why they are a top 5 team in America.
Virginia Tech won the 2017 Virginia Duals with blowout wins over Kent State (41-3) and Lock Haven (35-6) on Friday, a semifinal win over North Dakota State (22-15), and a championship win over #15 Oklahoma (24-10). The strong quartet of wins will likely give the Hokies a nice confidence boost especially after being upset by Iowa State in last year’s Virginia Duals championship match.
The biggest star of the weekend for the Hokies may have been Joey Dance who now has over 100 career victories (101) and won three out of four matches via some sort of tech fall. The only match he didn’t do that came against North Dakota State’s fourth-ranked Joshua Rodriguez but the second-ranked 125 wrestler took care of business there with a 5-3 win as Dance continues to look like a potential favorite to win the national title at 125.
Dance gets another chance this weekend to get another strong win against the ACC’s strongest competition at 125 in Virginia’s seventh-ranked Jack Mueller but with the way Dance is wrestling this year, the only guy who may be able to stop him is the guy ahead of him in the rankings, Iowa’s Thomas Gilman.
The last four of Virginia Tech’s lineup was dominant once again with Zach Epperly, Zack Zavatsky, Jared Haught, and Ty Walz all cruising to strong victories in what is good preparation for all four of them. Walz had the only win over a ranked opponent out of the group as the Hokies third-ranked heavyweight beat Lock Haven’s 16th-ranked Thomas Raines via a major decision 24-15.
Solomon Chishko continues to have a strong season as he gained another big win on Saturday with a 5-3 decision over Oklahoma’s 11th-ranked Davion Jeffries. Chishko has a bright future ahead of them as someone who will be a sleeper to win the 149 national title this year and a favorite in the next couple of years.
Sal Mastriani likely will drop out of the top 20 as he lost both Saturday matches in his return to the mat after being out due to injury, which may be the one thing that could keep him in. Meanwhile, Dennis Gustafson made his return as well and split his Saturday matches while also being an improvement for Virginia Tech’s lineup at 133.
141 continues to be a concern as Kevin Norstrem was upset against Kent State and then couldn’t face Lock Haven due to injury while Brenden Ryan struggled on Saturday in his spot. 141 continues to be a serious concern with Norstrem having the potential to be a solution as he gets more bouts under his belt though his mysterious injury from Friday is definitely concerning.
David Bergida has taken the starting spot at 165 for now and opened with two strong Friday victories, but couldn’t pick up a win on Saturday. 165 continues to be a weak spot in the Hokies’ lineup with Bergida being the top guy for now, but the Hokies still needing to get better in that spot going forward.
The #5 Hokies are looking strong as they head deeper into ACC competition with Pittsburgh and Virginia both coming to Blacksburg and the big showdown with N.C. State looming in a little over three weeks. Virginia Tech definitely has some concerns in their lineup at 141 and 165, but the Hokies are looking quite strong with 5 wrestlers ranked in the top 4 of their weight classes making life difficult for any opponent looking to pull an upset.