All it took was a change of scenery for Virginia Tech wrestling to get back on track. The No. 14 Hokies defeated in-state rival Virginia 30-6 on Saturday night inside the Moss Arts Center.
“I think the atmosphere, maybe,” redshirt senior Zack Zavatsky said when asked what made the difference. “It’s always awesome coming here and there’s just fans, feels like they’re right in front of you and it gets loud.”
Zavatsky and the Hokies had a quick turnaround from Friday night’s loss to Cornell. But putting that dual behind them, they were able to win eight of ten bouts in front of a sold-out theatre.
“I think it was good to try and put on a show for everybody and I think we fed off the energy,” Zavatsky said.
The dual between the ACC opponents was the second time they had met this season. Virginia Tech defeated Virginia 37-5 earlier this year at the Virginia Duals, but that match did not count in ACC competition or in the Commonwealth Clash.
Tonight’s dual counted for both, and the Hokies are one step closer to their goal of an ACC regular season title now.
“We’ve got a chance to win an ACC Dual meet title next Friday against NC State so that’s important,” head coach Tony Robie said. “That’s important to our team, that’s important to our program. I know our guys are excited about that.”
The match against UVA started at the 141-pound weight class, where Mitch Moore ran to the mat in a WWE-style environment, complete with screaming fans and choreographed lights. Moore faced off against Sam Krivus, who he pinned during the Virginia Duals. Neither wrestler was able to score in the first period and Moore started the second on bottom.
The true freshman worked for a stand-up, but was consistently denied. After wearing out Krivus, Moore was able to score a reversal and take a 2-0 lead.
“I could just tell when we were on our feet towards the end of the first period he was getting tired,” Moore said. “When I was on bottom I kept getting to my feet and it was taking a lot of energy out of him. When I felt him come off to his side I felt like that was my time to score so I went for it and got on top and went to work.”
Moore scored four near fall points before the end of the second period to go up 6-0. He kept turning Krivus on his back in the third period to rack up the near fall points on his way to a 16-0 major decision.
That match set the tone for the dual. The Hokies won the next five matches, including bonus point victories at 165, 174 and 184.
“I think ever since I’ve been here I’ve been a part of a pretty tough stretch of back-to-back-to-back weights and I think that’s, as a team, what we’ve been good at for a long time,” Zavatsky said of the Hokies’ upper weights.
Zavatsky, who lost an 8-0 major decision on Friday night, looked more energized tonight. He took down Drew Peck in the first 20 seconds of their match, and continued to score takedowns and near falls until he won an 18-3 tech fall in the third period.
“We all try and compete with each other and see who can score the most takedowns, who can score the most near fall. We practice like that in the room and that’s how it’s translating in matches,” Zavatsky said.
The Hokies lost at 197, but Billy Miller continued his strong weekend with a 4-1 decision at heavyweight. Joey Prata wasn’t able to win at 125, as he lost 5-2 to No. 5 Jack Mueller. The dual ended at 133, where Korbin Myers won a 5-2 decision over Louis Hayes.
In all, the Hokies picked up four bonus point victories to bounce back from Friday night. Every wrestler had a more lively approach than the previous night, scoring plenty of takedowns and escapes within the first few seconds of each period.
“That’s the expectation of what we expect when we go out there and compete and I think it was just more consistent tonight,” Robie said. “I think we had every guy that went out there, even in two matches that we lost, felt like our fight was really good. I felt like our energy was really good. We just stayed in there and scrapped the whole time.”
Tonight’s match was a step in the right direction for Robie, who was pleased with the way his team looked. Going forward, he hopes to see more of the same out of his squad.
“I just want to see consistency,” he said. “That was the biggest thing that we talked about is being consistent every time you step on the mat, being the same guy, giving the same effort regardless of what the opponent was
While competing in a unique environment such as the Moss Arts Center gave the Hokies some energy, they’ll need to find a way to keep that going next week against NC State. Next Friday’s dual begins at 7 p.m. in Cassell Coliseum with the ACC Co-Championship on the line.
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics