Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
When Bryce Andonian arrived on campus, the Virginia Tech staff new he was going to make an immediate impact. After all, the Cleveland, OH native was a two-time state champion at 145 pounds.
Still, the Hokies probably could not have expected how important he would become this season. His 15-5 record at 149 lbs. has been a large factor in Virginia Tech's success this season.
Of course, Andonian's high school career suggested that early collegiate success was quite possible.
Andonian attended St. Edward High School in Ohio, where he was a four year letter winner. Before his senior season, FloWrestling ranked him 4th in the nation in the 145 pound class.
Andonian also won a Fargo freestyle national championship at 145 pounds. Given this impressive resume, Robie knew he was getting a great wrestler.
Even so, Robie was not expecting to use Andonian this early. It was not until Brent Moore was forced out of the lineup due to complications with his neck that Andonian slid into a starting spot.
At first sight, it seemed that replacing a former ACC champion with a true freshman could be a hinderance for Virginia Tech. Instead, Andonian has stepped right up and quickly become an asset for the Hokies.
"If he gets on a role, he's dangerous," head coach Tony Robie said. "He's got the ability to put up a ton of points."
Extra point victories have been a staple for Andonian this season. Of his 15 victories, five have come by fall, 1 by tech fall, and 5 by major decision.
Andonian has picked up some marquee victories for the Hokies, including a 5-3 decision in a matchup against Tanner Smith of Chattanooga. Most recently, he had success against Wade Unger of Duke.
Immediately following a pin by Collin Gerardi and a Duke forfeit at 141 lbs, Andonian came out of the gate hot. He appeared to get a pin himself, but it was just after time expired in the first period.
Andonian went on to dominate the match and defeat Unger by tech fall. His victory gave the Hokies a commanding 23-0 lead, which Robie said was vital.
"It was big to go out there and get the ball rolling and start things off the right way, and then keep it going, too," Robie said. "It was a fun match to be a part of."
As important as Andonian has been thus far, his biggest impact may be yet to come. Virginia Tech travels to #3 NC State this weekend, where Andonian will most likely take on AJ Leitten. Leitten is ranked 24th in the nation by The Open Mat.
The match at 149 is considered a swing matchup in this dual meet. A win for Andonian would put Virginia Tech in great position to win the dual meet and keep their ACC Dual Meet title hopes alive while a loss could prove to be the difference.
More than that, Andonian has a chance to make a statement that he is the conference's second best 149 wrestler.
Currently, the ACC's 149 division is dominated by Austin O'Connor of North Carolina, the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the country at 149. However, the ACC's 149 division is wide open after that with Andonian having the opportunity to establish himself as the top challenger to O'Connor's throne.
Given that, Tony Robie knows that Andonian is going to be critical to Tech's success not only against N.C. State and Pittsburgh, but also at this year's ACC Tournament.
"He's going to be critical closing out this season," Robie said of Andonian. "At 149, within the ACC, I think Bryce can do some really good things. He can score a lot of points for us, both in these last two dual meets and at the ACC Tournament."