Once again, the ACC Dual Meet title will come down to Virginia Tech and NC State. At least a share of it, anyway.
The No. 14 Hokies host the No. 10 Wolfpack this Friday in Cassell Coliseum in what is possibly both teams’ biggest dual of the season. The winner will be at least co-champions of the ACC, depending on the result of No. 13 North Carolina’s dual against Duke.
All three teams boast an ACC record of 3-1 with one dual remaining in the season. This weekend’s winners will get to claim the regular season title ahead of next month’s ACC Tournament Championship.
“I think it’ll be good to get some time off tomorrow and kind of recoup for a big showdown next weekend with NC State for I think co-champs, ACC,” senior Zack Zavatsky said after last weekend’s win over Virginia. “We’ve just got to stay together as a team, make sure we’re making progress and staying healthy and trying to peak at the right time.”
The two programs have been at the top of the ACC in recent seasons. Tech and NC State have finished as the top two teams in both regular season standings and tournament scores over the past three years, setting the foundation for what has become a big rivalry.
“We’ve been going at it for a while now ever since I’ve been a freshman,” Zavatsky said. “I’m a fifth-year now, so it’s always been a pretty big rivalry.”
The Wolfpack hosted last year’s regular season finale in Raleigh, defeating Virginia Tech 19-15. The top 10 dual featured six ranked bouts and came down to the heavyweight match, where Michael Boykin defeated Andrew Dunn in sudden victory overtime.
This year’s dual will look a bit different. Despite having 11 ranked wrestlers between the two teams, there will only be two matches in which both wrestlers are ranked.
Those ranked matchups will happen at 133 and 184. No. 14 Korbin Myers will take on No. 7 Tariq Wilson at the 133-pound weight class, while No. 5 Zack Zavatsky will face off against No. 3 Nick Reenan at 184 pounds.
Zavatsky has experience beating higher-ranked Wolfpack wrestlers, as last season he beat No. 3 Pete Renda during the dual in Raleigh. He’ll face a tough test again this season, but the redshirt senior has five years of experience to know how to prepare.
“We’ve just got to compete really hard, make sure we’re making progress this week, have a great week of training and just ready to get after it this weekend,” Zavatsky said.
The Hokies and Wolfpack are almost opposite in terms of where their strengths are. NC State is loaded at the lower weights with ranked wrestlers at 125, 133, 149 and 157. Tech is traditionally strong in the upper weights, with every wrestler ranked from 165 to 285.
Even if Tech goes down early in the dual, the Hokies should be more than capable of making the match competitive once they reach the higher weight classes. Zavatsky, David McFadden and Mekhi Lewis have been extremely reliable this season, and have picked up multiple bonus point victories.
If the match starts at a heavier weight and Tech gets ahead early, it will likely be NC State that makes the dual interesting in the later weights. Either way, Friday's match is guaranteed to be exciting as both teams wrap up the regular season.
Virginia Tech is working hard to make sure fans understand how big Friday’s dual is. The match will serve as senior day for the Hokies. Four starters – Ryan Blees, Billy Miller, Tom Sleigh and Zavatsky – will be honored during the last home dual of their careers.
In addition, the match will be a black out, with the first 400 fans receiving free Virginia Tech Wrestling shirts.
The highest-attended match at Cassell Coliseum this season was on Jan. 25 against Pitt. 3,187 fans watched as the Hokies dismantled the No. 13 Panthers. With the ACC Dual Meet title on the line and one of the biggest recent rivalries taking place, this week’s match should see even higher attendance numbers.
Matches to Watch
133: No. 7 Tariq Wilson vs. No. 14 Korbin Myers
157: No. 4 Hayden Hidlay vs. B. C. LaPrade
165: No. 8 Mekhi Lewis vs. Thomas Bullard
184: No. 3 Nick Reenan vs. No. 5 Zack Zavatsky
The Hokies and the Wolfpack will take the mat at 7 p.m. on Friday inside Cassell Coliseum.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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