Most of the drama in the ACC Dual Meet title race seemed gone after last week when #7 Virginia Tech took down now #8 NC State 16-14 in the yearly marquee matchup of ACC Dual Meet season. However, the #24 Pittsburgh Panthers had other plans blowing the ACC race back open with a stunning upset.
#24 Pittsburgh stunned #7 Virginia Tech 26-12 with the Panthers in control of their own destiny to win the ACC Dual Meet title while the Hokies will need to get it via a three-way tiebreaker potentially to win the title or Pitt to slip up against NC State and an upset to North Carolina to clear the path.
Following their win over NC State, head coach Tony Robie made clear that he would consider making a starting lineup change at 125 from Eddie Ventresca to Cooper Flynn due to Ventresca's recent struggles. That proved to be true as Tech made the swap to Flynn but Robie may be making a swap back next week as Flynn was pinned in 44 seconds by Colton Camacho of Pittsburgh, putting the Hokies in a shocking 6-0 hole early on though the pin call was iffy to say the least.
The match of the night was up next at 133 between #5 Sam Latona and #7 Micky Phillippi with Latona being the one in control for most of it. Despite that, the match went to overtime after Phillippi got an escape and then an illegal shot call against him in the second period before Latona and Tech decided to go neutral in the third rather than bottom. Latona and Phillippi then had a wild scramble in sudden victory that didn't produce a takedown going to the two tiebreaker rounds where Phillippi got the win because he got his escape 9 seconds faster than Latona.
That put the Hokies in a 9-0 hole to Pittsburgh in a loss that seemed avoidable given the shocking and maybe bizarre decision to go neutral instead of bottom for Latona in the third period when the match was tied at 1. This was a match that Latona dominated, but that bad third period decision combined with Phillippi just surviving again and again cost the Hokies here.
Another big match came at 141 with freshman #12 Tom Crook facing a tough test in #3 Cole Matthews of Pittsburgh. Crook fought valiantly but he was overmatched by Matthews who won 6-2 to extend Pitt's lead to 12-0.
Things began to turn for the Hokies at 149 where the Hokies' best freshman, #9 Caleb Henson, put on a show dominating #29 Tyler Badgett throughout the match. He also stepped up in a big way to get a 14-2 major decision victory giving the Hokies a valuable bonus point to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 12-4.
Bryce Andonian followed up last week's dominant performance with another one as the #5 157 got a 14-1 major decision over #3 Dazjon Casto. However, you could see he seemed to be disappointed to not get a technical fall or pin in the immediate aftermath of his victory slamming one of his hands to the mat. Regardless, Andonian's victory cut the Pitt lead to 12-8 over the Hokies heading for a critical match at 165.
After losing a tough one in sudden victory last week, #25 Connor Brady looked to bounce back against #23 Holden Heller in what became seemingly a must win for the Hokies given the losses at 125 and 133. Brady wasn't able to bounce back as Heller kept Brady down for the full 2 minutes in the third period on his way to a 2-0 victory, putting Tech in a deep hole at 15-8.
Another spot that seemed like a bonus points spot for the Hokies was 174 with #3 Mekhi Lewis delivering. The former national champion was dominant against redshirt freshman Luca Augustine on his way to a big 14-4 major decision victory giving the Hokies another bonus point to cut the Pitt lead to 15-12.
#7 Hunter Bolen got off to a good start against #19 Reece Heller leading 2-1 after the first period, but Heller then pulled off a stunning reversal and pin of Bolen with 1:28 to go in the second period. That gave Pitt a 20-12 lead (lost 1 point for an unsportsmanlike conduct) burying the Hokies and setting the stage for Pitt to finish off a shocking upset.
#22 Andy Smith looked to build off his huge upset victory over now #9 Isaac Trumble last week but faced even tougher competition in #2 Nino Bonaccorsi. Smith fought valiantly and continues to show tremendous toughness, but Bonaccorsi held on in the end for a 3-1 victory that officially clinched the upset for #24 Pittsburgh at 23-12.
#23 Hunter Catka came out to close the night at heavyweight against Pitt's star true freshman, #5 Dayton Pitzer. Catka started off strong leading 2-1 after one period before Pitzer got a reversal in the second period though Catka got a very late escape to tie it at 3 going to the third where Catka chose neutral just like Latona did earlier. That decision made some sense given the weight class but the match still went to sudden victory with Pitzer getting the takedown to win 5-3.
It was a shocking performance to say the least for the Hokies defined by three rough moments from the pin call against Cooper Flynn that was iffy to say the least to open the night to Sam Latona dominating his 133 match but a tactical error going with neutral over bottom in the third proving costly. It was capped off by Hunter Bolen potentially going for bonus points knowing Tech needed them getting pinned on a shocking second period reversal that did the Hokies in for the shock upset loss.
There was some good with three bonus point victories from Caleb Henson, Mekhi Lewis, and Bryce Andonian while Andy Smith fought tough and is wrestling better than the #22 guy at his class. Catka continues to show flashes as well while Sam Latona was clearly better even in defeat.
However, the decision in the Latona match was a head scratcher at the time and after making you wonder how this all would have played out if Latona goes bottom and escapes for a 2-1 win. Personally, I wonder if Bolen doesn't feel he needs bonus points and stays with his style which may have turned this night into a Tech victory with the ACC Dual Meet title basically sealed.
Instead, the ACC Dual Meet title race has been blown wide open between the Hokies, Panthers, and NC State after a shocking upset.