For the second time in two weeks, Virginia Tech lost a dual on criteria, losing to NC State 17-16. That’s a feeling that head coach Tony Robie finds all too familiar.
“I felt like we had plenty of opportunities to win that match,” Robie said, adding that the loss was an emotional one. “I feel like I’m giving the same speech as I gave against Cornell. I feel like I’m giving the same speech that I’ve given multiple times this year. I just feel like we’re capable of more.”
The loss cost the Hokies a share of the ACC Dual Meet title. NC State and UNC each finished the ACC season 4-1, sharing the regular season championship. It’s the second straight year that the Wolfpack has denied Tech a shot at the title.
“Any time we have a chance to win an ACC Championship in Cassell Coliseum and we don’t get it done and we had chances to get it done it’s disappointing,” Robie said.
Just like last year’s dual against NC State, it came down to the last match of the night. Tech trailed 16-13 going into the 174-pound match. No. 7 David McFadden stepped on the mat, needing to win by seven points or major decision for Tech to clinch the dual.
McFadden fought hard against Wolfpack sophomore Daniel Bullard, but his 9-8 decision was not enough to give the Hokies the win. It’d be unfair to pin the loss on just one match, though.
“That loss isn’t on David McFadden. That’s a team loss,” Robie said. “We had guys that had opportunities to win and we put them in a tough spot. We put Mekhi in a tough spot and Dave in a tough spot. It’s hard to get majors when that guy’s just trying not to give up a major to a certain degree.”
Tech started the night out strong, with Zack Zavatsky winning a decision over No. 3 Nick Reenan. Zavatsky came out firing in his senior night match, winning a fast-paced bout against one of the top wrestlers in the country.
Fellow seniors Tom Sleigh and Billy Miller won the next two matches to go up 10-0 in the dual, including a major decision by Miller at heavyweight.
After that, it was NC State’s turn. The Wolfpack won every match from 125 to 157, taking a 16-10 lead in the team score. BC LaPrade put up a good fight against No. 4 Hayden Hidlay at 157 pounds, leading going into the third period. Hidlay was able to come back in the third and win the match, though, extending the Wolfpack lead.
The Hokies needed to win the last two matches and needed one to be a bonus point victory. Mekhi Lewis picked up an 11-5 decision, but almost had a takedown at the end of the match that could have made it a major. After Robie challenged the call, the officials rules that there was no takedown.
“It was close. I don’t know,” Robie said about the challenge. “I felt like he definitely had chances to win.”
While the loss is tough, Robie said the way the team competed is what disappointed him more.
“I hate to lose obviously, but in some situations, I felt like even if we didn’t get the major, if we would’ve just went out and presented ourself and been on the attack the whole time and stayed after the guy, I would’ve had no problem with it,” Robie said. “So that was a little disappointing.”
Robie has said all season that winning an ACC Championship is one of the team’s goals, so it’s disappointing that they were unable to accomplish that in the dual. But the Hokies have a shot at redemption in just two weeks. The ACC Tournament Championship will take place on Saturday March 9 in Blacksburg.
“We’ve got to come back and be prepared and be coachable and we’ve got to get our minds right and make sure we’re going into the ACC tournament to win it,” Robie said. “We've got to have guys that go out there not just to win but to dominate and to wrestle hard for seven minutes.”
When Virginia Tech takes the mat that weekend, they’ll be looking for their second-straight tournament title, and another shot at avenging a dual loss to NC State.
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics