Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
After suffering a tough loss at No. 3 N.C. State, No. 7 Virginia Tech Wrestling heads back on the road to No. 10 Pittsburgh with the Panthers also looking to bounce back after a tough loss at No. 8 North Carolina.
Both teams not only have individual wrestlers looking to build or find momentum going into championship season, but these two teams are both looking to finish off their strong regular seasons with a quality top 10 victory.
With that said, here are our matchups to watch.
184: No. 2 Hunter Bolen vs. No. 7 Nino Bonaccorsi
This is the biggest matchup of this dual meet and also the biggest 184 matchup of the weekend according to The Open Mat's Matthew Atkins (if you're a long-time TLP reader, you should recognize the name of our former associate editor and the best VT Wrestling writer to cover this team).
With major news this week out of Tempe that Arizona State had suspended No. 1 Zahid Valencia indefinitely for an unknown reason, Bolen has emerged as the favorite at 184 especially after his comfortable win against No. 3 Trent Hidlay last week. Bolen now has a chance to pick up his second-straight road victory against a top 10 opponent against Bonaccorsi.
Bonaccorsi has had a strong season beating opponents that he is expected to, but also has a 1-4 record against currently ranked opponents at 184. If anything, Bonaccorsi has the opportunity tonight to create some chaos at the 184 weight class and give himself some validation for being ranked 7th in the country at 184.
Bolen and Bonaccorsi both are stars of their teams, and both also have things to prove from Bolen having the chance to show why he's the clear best at 184 with Valencia suspended while Bonaccorsi can make a statement that he is a serious threat to the best at 184.
165: No. 10 David McFadden vs. No. 14 Jake Wentzel
David McFadden has struggled unlike any other time in his ACC career recently with losses to North Carolina's Kennedy Monday and N.C. State's Thomas Bullard over the past few weeks. Because of that, McFadden has gone from comfortably in the top 5 at 165 to barely in the top 10 still heading into the final regular season dual meet.
Meanwhile, Wentzel has been a present surprise for Pittsburgh in a 165 weight class that is absolutely loaded in the ACC, but has a 1-5 record against ranked opponents including 0-3 against ranked opposition within the ACC. McFadden is the one ranked ACC opponent that Wentzel hasn't faced yet with Wentzel looking to pull off the type of major upset that would make a statement that Wentzel can be considered a serious to win an ACC title at 165.
Both wrestlers have plenty to prove while both teams know that a win in this matchup would put them in strong position to win the dual meet. The greater pressure will likely be on McFadden though, the proven veteran and three-time ACC champion desperate to break his recent struggles and start building momentum into championship season.
Virginia Tech needs David McFadden to find his top form once again while Pitt's Jake Wentzel hopes to make a statement that he can beat one of the top wrestlers in the top tier at 165 in the ACC.
157: No. 18 B.C. LaPrade vs. Taleb Rahmani
LaPrade may be the favorite in this matchup as the 18th ranked 157 wrestler in the country pushing No. 1 Hayden Hidlay last weekend and nearly beating No. 11 Larry Early at Old Dominion recently. However, LaPrade faces a wrestler who has been a thorn in his side over the past couple of years, Taleb Rahmani.
Rahmani may be unranked currently, but he has been dominant against LaPrade with a 4-0 record during the previous two seasons where LaPrade claimed a starting role. Whether LaPrade has been directly told of this or not, he likely has a good memory about the past struggles he's had with Rahmani and a chip on his shoulder to finally get past the Pitt 157 starter.
More importantly, this has the potential to be a swing matchup for Virginia Tech with the Hokies likely having this as one they need to win along with the two previous matchups plus ones at 125, 141, 149, 165, and 184. That does mean that Tech has some margin for error, but the Hokies would rather not lose some of that margin for error on a matchup like this one given LaPrade's talent and his national ranking at 157.
B.C. LaPrade has the chance to finally get past Rahmani with the Hokies knowing that a win for LaPrade puts them in strong position to end dual meet season with a victory.