Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
Virginia Tech and N.C. State have developed one of the best rivalries in collegiate wrestling with many great dual meets, but this year's may have been the most memorable showdown to date especially to those in Blacksburg.
#8 Virginia Tech Wrestling beat #3 N.C. State by a final match score of 17-16 thanks to the third tiebreaker of match points being in the Hokies' favor after a dramatic takedown and 2-point nearfall from Sam Latona in the closing seconds of his match. The win clinches at least a share of Virginia Tech's first ACC Dual Meet title since the 2016-17 season and makes a strong statement as the Hokies look to win their third ACC Tournament title under Robie in a few weeks.
The dual meet started off quite strong for the Hokies as #8 Korbin Myers was absolutely dominant at 133. Myers not only routed #13 Jarrett Trombley but more importantly, Myers won via a 14-5 major decision to give the Hokies an important bonus point and a 4-0 lead.
At 141, Sam Hillegas fought hard, but the true freshman was unable to do enough to upset #10 Tariq Wilson with the Wolfpack veteran winning the match 5-1. However, Hillegas did his job avoidning giving up bonus points while continuing to show growth and the promise of someone who can develop into a future All-American in the not too distant future.
#11 Bryce Andonian faced an underrated freshman Ed Scott at 149 who gave Andonian one of his toughest challenges of the season to date with a match that was up in the air heading to the third period. However, Andonian was able to get it done with a strong third period to pick up a 9-5 win albeit without the bonus points that the Hokies were likely hoping for.
Connor Brady faced an almost impossible challenge against #2 Hayden Hidlay at 157, but the redshirt freshman stepped up fighting Hidlay tough and preventing Hidlay from picking up bonus points for only the second time this season in a 9-4 defeat while showing loads of potential.
At 165, #1 Mekhi Lewis was dominant and though he was unable to get bonus points, his 5-0 victory against #15 Thomas Bullard came with great ease and is a reminder of how tough it is going to be for anyone across the country to knock Lewis off.
After a big upset win at 174 last week against UNC's previously #9 Devin Kane, Dakota Howard put up a solid fight, but was unable to pull off another upset and also gave up a bonus point in a 10-2 major decision loss to #7 Daniel Bullard.
That set the stage for a thrilling final four matches starting with the biggest match of the night at 184 between #2 Hunter Bolen and #4 Trent Hidlay in a rematch of last year's ACC Tournament final. Like last year, Bolen once again came out on top via a 2-1 victory in a match that had some tense moments, but was controlled by Bolen who was the aggressor for the overwhelming majority of it. However, both made it clear in this high level match that they both are serious national title contenders this yar.
Stanley Smeltzer got the start at 197 and seemed on his way to an upset early after claiming a 4-2 lead over #16 Isaac Trumble. However, the talented freshman Trumble used his above-average length for his weight class to come from behind for a 6-5 victory and keep the Hokies from stealing an unexpected three points.
Heavyweight saw a freaky moment during the first period when #17 John Borst suffered some sort of right arm injury, leading to a medical stoppage to the match with it being unclear whether Borst would be able to continue on. Fortunately for Tech, Borst was able to do so and only lose via a 3-1 decision to #19 Deonte Wilson despite having a right arm that clearly seemed to take away his aggression. However, not giving up bonus points while hurt would prove extremely valuable.
Borst's loss set the stage for the second top 10 matchup of the night to close the dual meet between #8 Sam Latona and #4 Jakob Camacho. The two had met last year while Latona was redshirting at the Southern Scuffle with Latona beating Camacho 10-5 in that event.
This tim was much closer with Camacho taking the lead at the very end of the first period and holding on to it for most of the match despite Latona being the clear aggressor. Latona through all he had at this match and then in the final seconds, pulled off a memorable takedown and nearfall to win the match and at least a share of the ACC Dual Meet title.
After the Mekhi Lewis national title, this is in the second tier of great Virginia Tech Wrestling moments as the redshirt freshman also made it clear that he is among the top challengers to Iowa's Spencer Lee, the overwhelming favorite at 125 similar to Mekhi Lewis at 165.
Tony Robie has been building Virginia Tech Wrestling up to getting back to winning ACC titles with this being proof that the Hokies are well on track with a team that started only three juniors and seniors pulling off this win. This win tonight made it clar that Tech has legitimate reason to be considered the favorites to sweep the ACC titles this yar and absolutely can make a run at getting back to the podium at the NCAA Tournament as a team.
While we already knew Tech had two legit national title favorites/top contenders in Mekhi Lewis and Hunter Bolen, two more Hokies proved they should at least be among the first names in that conversation in their weight classes in Korbin Myers and Sam Latona.
Latona in particular made it clear tonight that he is not only ready to take over the ACC for the next few years, but also has the talent to go win multiple national titles and dominate 125 down the road as Mekhi Lewis is dominating 165.