There was a reunion of sorts in Morgantown on Wednesday night. Tony Robie led Virginia Tech to a 24-9 victory against West Virginia, a team coached by one of his closest colleagues in the wrestling community.
“It’s nice to come up here and be able to spend some time with him,” Robie said of West Virginia coach Tim Flynn. “He’s one of my best friends, so we vacation together, we spend a lot of time together. So it’s always good to see him, see his family. Even the guys on their staff, I’m pretty close with as well.”
The relationship between the coaches goes back to Robie’s college days, when Flynn was an assistant at Edinboro. With Flynn on the staff, Robie became a two-time All-American and NCAA finalist in 1997 for the Fighting Scots.
Robie isn’t the only one in the Hokies’ program who is familiar with Flynn, though. Senior heavyweight Billy Miller wrestled under Flynn before transferring to Virginia Tech this offseason. Miller was a two-time EWL champion and three-time NCAA qualifier at Edinboro.
On Wednesday night, Miller got to compete against his former coach for the first time, and he didn’t mess around.
The Hokies’ heavyweight picked up a 4-0 decision over Brandon Ngati that made the score 17-0 in favor of Tech at the time. The match started at the 165-pound weight class, and thanks to some strong performances, the Hokies quickly racked up the team points.
“I liked the way our guys went out,” Robie said “They were aggressive and went out with an attitude they were going to take the win and we got some bonus points in some places.”
Mekhi Lewis got the ball rolling with a 15-2 major decision over Nick Kiussis. The bout was a rematch from the Hokie Open, where Lewis won 5-3.
Things were a bit different this time around as he dominated in all three periods on the way to earning some bonus points for Tech.
The Hokies kept the momentum going from there, winning the next four matches in each of the heavier weight classes, including another major decision from Zack Zavatsky.
Robie did point out that there were some missed opportunities for more team points during the dual. David McFadden won his match 8-2, just two points shy of a major decision. Kyle Norstrem picked up a 9-2 decision for Tech, one point away from earning a major decision.
Despite those missed points, Robie was impressed overall with the way his guys wrestled, and can see improvement in areas they’ve been working on.
“I felt like we wrestled hard in a lot of places and that’s really what we’re looking for,” Robie said. “We’ve obviously been working a lot in the bottom position. We’ve struggled there this year. I felt like in most places we made improvements in those areas and we need to continue to make improvements in that area.”
Overall, the Hokies won seven matches in the dual, winning every weight class except for 125, 141 and 149. All of the ranked wrestlers who competed for Virginia Tech earned a victory and David McFadden and Billy Miller stayed undefeated on the season, each improving to 2-0.
The only ranked wrestler who did not compete in the dual was No. 15 Korbin Myers, who was out with an injury.
“He’s battling a little bit of an injury right now so we’re just trying to get him healthy, get him back to 100 percent, or at least close to 100 percent where he can get out there and compete,” Robie said. “Hopefully he’ll be back by the Virginia Duals.”
Kyle Norstrem took Myers’ spot at 133 pounds, winning by a 9-2 decision over KJ Fenstermacher. The match was tied 2-2 in the third period, but Norstrem used a takedown followed by four quick near fall points to build up a lead as the clock ticked down.
The night ended on a high note for the Hokies as BC LaPrade dominated Zachary Moore for a 14-2 major decision. LaPrade hardly let up the whole match, finishing with 4:45 of riding time.
The team gets a short break before returning to the wrestling room and preparing for some upcoming tournaments.
“They’re off for Christmas. They’ll return the 26th
,” Robie said. “We’ll get a short training phase in before the [Southern] Scuffle and then we’ll head down there.”
Robie said that some of the team will participate in the Southern Scuffle, hosted by Tennessee-Chattanooga, while others will compete in the Franklin and Marshall Open.
“We won’t take a full team to the Southern Scuffle, but we’ll take a handful of our guys that we feel like it’s the best place for them to compete at, some guys will go to the Franklin and Marshall Open and hopefully get a bunch of wins up there,” Robie said.
The tournament will feature NCAA powerhouses such as Penn State, NC State, Oklahoma State and many more. The competition begins on New Year’s Day with the semifinals and finals taking place on Jan. 2.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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