#8 Virginia Tech Wrestling Beats #5 NC State in 16-14 Thriller

#8 Virginia Tech Wrestling Beats #5 NC State in 16-14 Thriller
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Jan 20, 2023

When Virginia Tech and NC State face off in wrestling, it's always must-see TV as one of the best rivalries in collegiate wrestling full of thrilling history. Every time they face off seems to deliver memorable moments with this showdown proving no different. In the end, the biggest moments of this one were in the Hokies' favor.

#8 Virginia Tech beat #5 NC State 16-14 in what likely seals the ACC Dual Meet title for the Hokies given how dominant these two programs have been compared to the rest of the conference and given how much more talent these two have. Bryce Andnoian's impressive return with a 24-10 major decision victory combined with Andy Smith thrilling upset of Isaac Trumble proved decisive in this and produced a pair of new memorable moments in this great wrestling rivalry.

So how did the Hokies win one of the most entertaining dual meets in recent memory?

A dramatic match at 125 opened the evening between #20 Eddie Ventresca and #29 Jarrett Trombley with nothing separating the two outside of a pair of escapes leading to sudden victory. However, Ventresca's recent struggles against ranked competition unfortunately continued as a strong takedown effort was outdone by an effective counter by Trombley to get a 3-1 victory to open the evening.

#5 Sam Latona responded well for the Hokies with a workmanlike 3-1 victory over #25 Kai Orine. While it may not have been bonus points, it was still a strong performance from Latona with the result never seeming in doubt.

The first of 4 matches between top 15 ranked opponents came at 141 between #12 Tom Crook and #6 Ryan Jack. Crook was looking to avenge an 8-2 loss at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and had a 1-0 lead thanks to a locked hands call on Jack through 2. However, Jack got the escape in the third doing so fast enough to keep his riding time over a minute and picking up an extra point to win 2-1.

However, the Hokies responded in the second of 4 top 15 matchups as #9 Caleb Henson showed again why he is a serious All-American threat as a freshman. Henson was in control throughout not giving up a takedown and getting 2 of his own plus a riding time point and escape for a 6-1 victory over #15 Jackson Arrington.

Then, #6 Bryce Andonian made his return and man did he put on a show in one of the most entertaining wrestling matches I've witnessed. Andonian came out fast against #7 Ed Scott in the third-straight top 15 matchup with a takedown and 4-point nearfall adding another combination of that and more in the first period while Scott got his own takedown and 4-point nearfall leading to a 16-6 Andonian lead after 1.

From there, Andonian continued to widen his lead slightly in what remained a back and forth affair with plenty of close takedowns. In the end, Andonian beat Scott by major decision 24-10 to give Tech a valuable bonus point and a 10-6 lead. This did not seem like a bonus point match for Tech going in especially since Andonian was coming off injury but he sent a message that he is healthy and ready to contend for a national title.

#22 Connor Brady and #32 Matt Singleton both traded takedowns and quick escapes in the first period at 165 with each gaining a quick escape in the second and third periods. Brady came close to a late takedown in the third but the match was sent to sudden victory. Unfortunately, Brady faced a repeat of what happened Ventresca as the aggressor who made a great takedown effort before Singleton countered brilliantly to get the takedown and give NC State the victory.

Tech still led 10-8 due in part to the Wolfpack being docked a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct but with two losses from wrestlers ranked higher than their opponents, the Hokies were suddenly in a hole.

Despite that, #3 Mekhi Lewis did exactly what he was supposed to with a dominant 8-2 victory over #32 Alex Faison. That gave the Hokies a 13-8 lead with 3 matches to go needing an upset to get themselves back into position for victory.

The biggest match of the night and the fourth top 15 showdown came at 174 between #7 Hunter Bolen and #3 Trent Hidlay who in 5 previous matches had never had a match with more than one takedown. Bolen had the 3-2 advantage but Hidlay came in as the higher-ranked favorite.

After an even first period, Bolen got an escape in the second period and then got a takedown late in the second period that led to Cassell erupting and Bolen taking a 3-0 lead into the third period. From there, the aggression and risks by Hidlay to get a takedown increased but despite the best efforts of Bolen, Hidlay got his takedown forcing sudden victory.

Unfortunately for Tech, the end result in sudden victory was the same as the first wo as Hidlay got the takedown for a 5-3 victory over Bolen. Though Tech still led 13-11 after that match, the odds of victory looked slim given the rankings disparity for the final two matchups.

However, this dual meet reminded us that wrestling isn't decided by rankings but by what happens when it's one-on-one on the mat in front of thousands of fans in the arena and many more on TV.

#26 Andy Smith faced a tough challenge at 197 in #6 Isaac Trumble with both fighting hard to open the match with no points in the first and then escapes traded making it 1-1 midway through the third. Smith then pulled off another memorable moment in this great rivalry with a takedown in the final minute. Trumble got an escape though and went all out to try to get the takedown which he came quite close to getting. However, Smith survived for a 3-2 victory that completely flipped the dual and put the Hokies in the driver's seat up 16-11 with only one match to go.

At heavyweight, #23 Hunter Catka simply had to avoid losing by tech fall or pin aganst #12 Owen Trephan to seal the victory for Virginia Tech. Catka went out there and fought to get more than just that coming close to a takedown in the first period that ended with no score before Trephan got an early escape in the second to take a 1-0 lead into the third period. Catka got an early escape in the third but this one also went to sudden victory where Trephan got a takedown to win 3-1.

However, the job was done as Catka avoided any sort of disaster and the Hokies sealed the victory making them the de facto ACC Dual Meet champs barring a shock upset.

While the four sudden victory losses were disappointing, this was a night where Tech's biggest stars rose to the occasion led by Bryce Andonian'a massive point that was crucial in winning this one. Additionally, Andy Smith had the greatest performance of his career taking down a top 10 opponent for the winning points.

In the process, the man who likely remembers plenty of Tech-NC State dual meet created a memorable moment that young Tech fans growing up in his hometown of Christiansburg and beyond will remember.