Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
After winning a thrilling dual meet against N.C. State last week, #4 Virginia Tech Wrestling completed an undefeated dual meet season Friday night to clinch an outright ACC title, but it may have come at a steep price.
The #4 Hokies beat #16 Pittsburgh 27-12 to clinch the ACC Dual Meet title outright and complete an undefeated dual meet season. However, the Hokies did see defending national champion Mekhi Lewis suffer an injury with his status unknown at this time for the ACC Tournament in a couple weeks.
This dual meet started well for the Hokies with freshman Hunter Catka being absolutely dominant with a 4-0 victory against Austin Cooley as Catka continues to show signs of finding his rhythm.
After a clutch, last second victory last week, #5 Sam Latona was dominant at 125 with a 12-3 major decision victory against Colton Camacho as Latona continues to show that he has what it takes to be an All-American as a redshirt freshman.
Tech decided to give Korbin Myers the night off, starting Joey Prata instead who stepped up and delivered at 133 with a 3-1 victory against Louis Newell to give the Hokies a 10-0 lead in the team score.
The Hokies went with Collin Gerardi over Sam Hillegas at 141, but Gerardi was unable to get a victory losing 8-4 to #17 Cole Matthews. This loss continues to create a foggy picture for the Hokies at 141 as to whether they should go with Gerardi or Hillegas for the ACC Tournament and therefore to be their NCAA Tournament eligible wrestler at 141.
#10 Bryce Andonian got things back on track at 149 with a 10-1 major decision against Mick Burnett. That was followed by Connor Brady putting together arguably his best performance of the season with a 12-1 major decision against Tyler Badgett.
There was lots of hype for the top 10 matchup at 165 between #1 Mekhi Lewis and #10 Jake Wentzel. However, Lewis suffered an injury during the match that forced him to retire after the second period, handing 6 team points to Pittsburgh with Wentzel up 3-0 at the time the match was called due to injury.
Dakota Howard then responded in a big way with emotions on the Hokie side at a peak level with a dominant 21-6 tech fall against Jared McGill in 5:05, an impressive performance from Howard who has shown loads of potential and should likely earn an NCAA Tournament spot.
#2 Hunter Bolen took care of business at 184 with a 12-4 major decision victory against Gregg Harvey as he continues to be the favorite to win the ACC Tournament title at 184. Andy Smith put up a valiant effort against #7 Nino Bonaccorsi and though he lost, Smith prevented Bonaccorsi from getting any team bonus points in his 8-1 victory.
Tech now has two weeks before they wrestle in the ACC Tournament in Raleigh with the focus certainly being on getting Mekhi Lewis healthy in time knowing how key Lewis will be in the inevitable team battle with N.C. State.
Meanwhile, Tech will also have a couple decisions to make with the 141 battle between freshman Sam Hillegas and veteran Collin Gerardi plus an intriguing battle at 197 between freshman Andy Smith and veteran Stanley Smeltzer. 141 seems like the greater toss-up especially after Hillegas won one of the post dual meet extra matches while Smeltzer lost his.