Virginia Tech Wrestling capped off arguably its biggest weekend of the season last Friday and Saturday, defeating their first top-10 opponent against previously #9 Lehigh and picking up an ACC win over Duke. As the team prepares for the final three ACC matches of the season, we take a look at some of the news surrounding the squad.
Hello, Ryan Blees and Brent Moore!
These two wrestlers have been a bright spot for the team in the second half of the season, especially in wake of the recent injuries. Against Duke, Moore won by a major decision and Blees recorded a technical fall victory.
Since the Arizona State match, Brent Moore has won every match he has competed in. One of his biggest wins came few weeks ago against Pittsburgh, where he defeated the then 15th ranked wrestler in the 141 pound weight class, Nick Zanetta.
“When Brent is disciplined, when he feels good when he steps on the mat, he’s a different wrestler,” said Robie. “He’s a competitive guy, he wants to win.”
Blees has been excellent at filling in at 149, where he and Chishko have been splitting starts as of late. After initially earning the 157 starting position earlier in the year, he decided to drop down to 149 to help the team with Chishko being out. Robie said he deserves a lot of credit.
“I can’t say enough good things about where Ryan Blees is at, what he’s done for this team. We’re winning dual meets because Ryan Blees is wrestling so well. He does everything right, Ryan’s a tremendous worker, he’s a very good wrestler, I think he’s at the right weight class. We’re real pleased with where he’s at and excited about the future with Ryan Blees.”
When you look at Virginia Tech’s starting lineup, they are back heavy with McFadden at 165, Zavatsky at 184, Haught at 197, and Dunn at heavyweight. With all of them being ranked, having consistency at the middle part of their lineup in Blees and Moore is key for this team moving into postseason play.
Following the Duke victory, Virginia Tech had suffered injuries to two starting wrestlers within 24 hours.
Kyle Norstrem, the starter at 125, was injured in warm-ups before the Hokies’ match against Lehigh last Friday night. The injury forced the Hokies to forfeit the match and then on Saturday, put freshman Ryan More into that spot, where he was pinned in the second period. Coach Tony Robie indicated after the Duke match that he would be a few weeks and his timetable to return is TBD with the hope that he’ll be back for their match against NC State.
The other injury happened to B.C. LaPrade, a wrestler who had been on a hot streak, and had to forfeit his match quickly into the first period due to injury.
These are two key starters for Virginia Tech and will be tough to replace this late into the season. Robie explained that wrestlers will have to step up in the coming weeks to avoid being upset by North Carolina with Norstrem and LaPrade out.
Hokies Compete in Appalachian State Open
While the Duke match was happening last Saturday, some of the team was competing in a separate event at Appalachian State, including Solomon Chishko. Three freshmen turned in big outings on the mat, as Hunter Bolen, Mekhi Lewis, and John Borst all won individual titles. Dominic Latona also had a successful day, placing second at 133. Caden Darber (141) and Stanley Smeltzer (184) both placed third in their weight classes.
North Carolina Up Next
The Tar Heels are the next opponent that the Hokies will have to face, as they put their 2-0 ACC record on the line in Cassell. Ranked 25th in the polls, UNC is 8-8 on the season and also 2-0 in league play, clinching big wins against UVA and Pittsburgh in their last two outings. Six of their ten starters are ranked and there should be some exciting match-ups at 184 where #8 Zack Zavatsky should take on #17 Chip Ness, and at 197 #2 Jared Haught is projected to wrestle #16 Danny Chaid. It will also be a special day for the team as they honor their two seniors, Dennis Gustafson and Jared Haught, as they wrestle for the final time in Cassell Coliseum.
You can watch the Top-25 match-up on the ACC Network Extra at 6:00 PM on Saturday, streaming live through the ESPN App.