Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
As a whole, the ACC is having its best wrestling season in conference history with four teams currently ranked in the top 10. That group is led by No. 7 Virginia Tech and No. 3 N.C. State with the two perennial ACC powers set to face off in a critical ACC dual meet at 7pm on the ACC Network.
For the Hokies, it's a must win to keep their hopes of winning an ACC Dual Meet Championship alive after suffering a shocking home loss to North Carolina, their lone dual meet loss. For the Wolfpack, they know a home win will seal the deal on the ACC Dual Meet title with only a match at Duke remaining on their schedule.
With that said, here are 4 matchups to watch between the Hokies and Wolfpack. (Also, check out our featured story on freshman Bryce Andonian here.)
184: No. 2 Hunter Bolen vs. No. 3 Trent Hidlay
There is no matchup bigger than this massive showdown between two of the top national title contenders at 184, No. 2 Hunter Bolen and No. 3 Trent Hidlay.
Bolen and Hidlay both redshirtred last year as Bolen moved up from 174 to 184 while Hidlay took the usual redshirt year for a wrestler in his first year on his campus. Bolen and Hidlay both showed lots of promise last season, turning that into massive success this season.
Bolen and Hidlay have combined for a total of 3 losses this season with Bolen's only loss coming against Northern Iowa's Taylor Lujan and Hidlay only losing twice this season. This is not only a preview of the likely ACC Wrestling Championship at 184 but also could be a preview of a semifinal at the NCAA Championships.
For Bolen, the next 2 weeks are his chance to put a massive stake in the ground that he is the top threat to Arizona State's Zahid Valencia with Hidlay this week followed by No. 7 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh. If Bolen can pick up a pair of wins, not only can he estabish himself as a clear top challenger to Valencia, but potentially get the Hokies to at least a share of an ACC Wrestling Dual Meet title.
165: No. 6 David McFadden vs. No. 10 Thomas Bullard
Virginia Tech has had a long reign of terror at 165 with David McFadden and Mekhi Lewis winning title after title for the Hokies. With Lewis using an Olympic redshirt, McFadden has returned to 165 as the ACC title favorite with the top contender being last year's ACC runner-up, Thomas Bullard.
This is the first time that McFadden and Bullard have faced off in their collegiate careers with McFadden having faced Bullard's older brother previously and having immense success.
McFadden likely carries a big chip on his shoulder into this match especially after he was surprisingly upset by North Carolina's Kennedy Monday just a few weeks ago. McFadden has also shown that he's still among the best at 165 this season with a victory over Wisconsin's Evan Wick, No. 4 at 165, earlier this season.
Like the matchup above, this also looks like a preview of the likely ACC Championship at 165 though this class also has a quality challenger in the aforementioned Kennedy Monday.
McFadden remains the favorite both in this matchup and overall at 165 in the ACC, but a loss to Bullard not only would change that favorite status some, but it would also significantly diminish Virginia Tech's hopes of pulling off the upset.
141: No. 19 Mitch Moore vs. No. 10 Tariq Wilson
This is the third of four ranked matchups, but one that could prove very decisive if the Hokies are going to pull off the upset. Tariq Wilson may be ranked higher than Mitch Moore, but Moore is one of the most exciting wrestlers because of the risks he'll take to go for takedowns or even pins.
This is the first matchup between these two after Wilson, who spent two seasons at 133 and won an individual ACC title in 2018, moved up to 141 to replace the graduating Jamel Morris.
Wilson and Moore are both part of a very up in the air class at 141 with UNC's Zach Sherman. The trio have all had their ups and downs with this being a major opportunity for Moore or Wilson to make a statement and assert themselves as the top contender to win the individual title at 141.
In terms of the dual meet, this is a potential swing match for the Hokies if Moore can pull off the upset. This is one match that N.C. State needs Wilson to win while Virginia Tech has paths to victory that don't necessarily include a Moore victory but are made easier by one.
While the other two matches are even bigger, this is one where if Virginia Tech can pull off the upset, the Hokies' hopes of pulling off the dual meet victory grow significantly.
125: No. 16 Joey Prata vs. Jakob Camacho
This may not be one of the four ranked matchups between these two teams, but this one comes with significant importance as one where Virginia Tech needs a win to maximize their hopes of winning in Raleigh.
While Joey Prata may be the favorite based purely on the InterMat rankings, this matchup does feel in some ways like a toss-up.
After a breakout start to the season, Prata has some struggles losing his last three dual meet matches. Meanwhile, Camacho has been in good form recently winning his past 2 matches and 4 of his past 5 on his way to earning the No. 8 spot in the newly released RPI rankings at 125.
Prata has shown potential to beat high caliber opponents with a 16-9 record that includes victories over Iowa State's Alex Mackall and Minnesota's Patrick McKee, both of whom are ranked in the top 15 at 125.
If Prata can find the form that led him to a breakout start and helped the Hokies upset Ohio State, then Virginia Tech will be in strong position early to win this dual meet. If not, the Hokies will have an uphill battle that may be almost impossible from the start.