Wrestling fans across the country and especially in Virginia and North Carolina were stunned last night when news broke that the ACC's major annual wrestling showdown between Virginia Tech and N.C. State was off. Not only was it off, but the dual meet was ruled a Virginia Tech forfeit gifting N.C. State victory and almost certainly a title.
@theACC has announced that the @HokiesWrestling at @PackWrestle match scheduled for Friday, January 21, has been canceled and will result in a Virginia Tech forfeit. Friday night’s @DukeWRES at @UNCWrestling match will now air live on @accnetwork at 7 p.m.https://t.co/Gg7heoQsV7— The ACC (@theACC) January 21, 2022
Now I'll be honest, to see that this was not either postponed to be rescheduled later or simply canceled was a shock to me especially since rumors are pointing to the fact that Virginia Tech had to pull out of competing tomorrow due to COVID issues with Tech Sideline's David Cunningham reporting such along with well-known wrestling insider Pat Mineo who had more details.
I’ve heard from sources it’s COVID related (VT), but no explanation on that front from the league. https://t.co/t1ZbMQBEbF— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) January 21, 2022
They had a covid outbreak. 8 total wrestlers, there would have been a number of forfeits. So tried to reschedule.. Not sure why people are making it some conspiracy tho lol covid issues/ wanted to reschedule in coming weeks- told No. match now won’t happen,— The Wrestling Room (Pat Mineo) (@MrPatMineo) January 21, 2022
As we all know well, the ACC has gotten rid of the possibility of forfeits in men's and women's basketball after the surge of the Omicron variant changed the dynamics of the situation from the fall. That change was more than fair given how things had changed for the sake of sporting fairness and integrity.
Yet there isn't a single thing that I can find on the ACC's website to suggest that the policy changed creating an Olympics sports loophole that was open to exploitation against what is best from a sporting perspective especially given the current circumstances. The basketball release references winter sports but provides no clear details, opening the door for things like this to happen given the lack of specifics, clarity, and conference guidance that should be necessary.
The fact that Phillips and the ACC have completely overlooked this despite their eagerness to change it for basketball is a failure and something that the ACC should address immediately with the Omicron variant still very much present.
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips should also know the value of wrestling and the growing respect of the ACC having been the Northwestern AD in the Big 10, the nation's premier wrestling conference. The failure to clearly adjust the rules for sports that aren't basketball and provide specifics is extremely disappointing and something like this could easily happen against in a non-basketball winter sport if Phillips and the ACC continue to overlooks the sports that don't produce as much money as basketball.
This failure damages the brand of ACC Wrestling and makes it look like the conference doesn't actually care about the legitimacy of competition in the conference even though the ACC has two of the top 10 programs in the country in VT and N.C. State plus 2 more that have been consistent top 20ish programs in Pittsburgh and North Carolina. While words may say one thing, the failure to act says otherwise on this day.
That's a shame to all the wrestlers who have built the ACC into one of the premier wrestling conferences and the coaches especially at Tech and N.C. State who have built programs that can drive that growth and relevance.
Now will the conference bounce back from this blemish, absolutely. But this is an unforced and unnecessary error by the ACC to not have made fair changes to these policies for sports beyond basketball with the blame laying at the feet of Phillips.
So we've checked off the box of blame for Jim Phillips and the ACC, but that doesn't mean that the ACC can't change their policies for other sports to be in alignment with basketball especially if the programs are in agreement and alignment on preserving opportunities for wrestlers to compete fairly.
Instead, we see that VT tried to reschedule, but clearly were given no traction to do such according to Pat Mineo who is one of the most well-connected people in the wrestling world with N.C. State's athletic leadership apparently leading the resistance against a reschedule.
VT tried to reschedule but told No. https://t.co/oOS05hVhS3— The Wrestling Room (Pat Mineo) (@MrPatMineo) January 21, 2022
By NC state.— The Wrestling Room (Pat Mineo) (@MrPatMineo) January 21, 2022
I've also had a source tell me that Virginia Tech wanted to reschedule the match along with N.C. State coaches, but one man got in the way.
N.C. State AD Boo Corrigan.
Yes, Corrigan has the right to force the enforcement of the ACC's outdated forfeit policy, but it also doesn't make it the right thing from a sporting perspective given the ACC's changes elsewhere or necessarily the sensible move for Corrigan if this is true and Corrigan didn't do much to actually try to reschedule this dual meet.
Unlike VT's dual meets that are at Cassell Coliseum, N.C. State actually sells tickets for their dual meets with this being the marquee dual meet of the season. Yes, the Wolfpack are allowing these tickets to be exchanged for lesser dual meets against UVA and UNC, but they aren't even allowing them to be refunded even thought the quality of product and value of the ticket has been lessened by the failure to try to reschedule and instead only allowing fans to swap for dual meets of lesser magnitude.
Yes, N.C. State was likely the favorite to win this dual meet, but there's a reason why we don't simulate sports like a video game. If we did, we'd never see great upsets like UMBC over UVA or even smaller upsets like N.C. State men's basketball beating Virginia Tech just a couple weeks ago in an upset that no one expected given how much the Wolfpack had struggled lately entering that game.
Wrestling, more than any other sport, is built on actually settling it on the mat with a forfeit of a weight class within a dual meet being of greatest cost to the team that forfeits at 6 points. To not compete, even if there was a favorite which N.C. State likely was, goes against the ethic of what sports are about including wrestling.
This is also a dual meet that deserves to happen and is not only the biggest in the ACC yearly, but also one of the most important dual meets nationally.
A mass COVID outbreak hamstringing Virginia Tech tomorrow wouldn't have been fair to either party especially given the instant classics that we've seen over the past couple of years from N.C. State's late surge in 2020 to win to Sam Latona's walk-off takedown to win the dual meet and the ACC Dual Meet title last year.
This is a dual meet that deserves to have both teams at full strength in terms of the factors that can be controlled. Given that COVID was going to prevent VT (while poor weather conditions tomorrow night also made travel problematic anyway) from competing, a reschedule makes too much sense.
Additionally, there is the clear open date on the final weekend of February where both teams wouldn't have to worry about another dual meet later that weekend. Yes, some could be worried about COVID issues popping up at N.C. State but public officials have said that the Omicron surge has already peaked in some parts of the country and given the CDC's comments saying that Omicron in the U.S. would likely follow what happened in South Africa, the odds of COVID issues in late February are much less.
And if N.C. State had a COVID issue later on, then I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of ruling N.C. State the outright dual meet champ over the Hokies given that the initial issue that forced the reschedule was at Virginia Tech.
Corrigan's wrestling program also wanted to wrestle per a source as I mentioned above including the coaches who were ready to work to make a reschedule happen. If the athletes and coaches you represent want to compete and it's more than reasonable to reschedule which it is in this case, then there's no reason why the athlete who is the main reason why you have your job shouldn't get precedence in terms of their wishes.
However, those hopes of a reschedule seem almost certainly gone given Corrigan's rumored decision to not create an opening for a reschedule. Instead, N.C. State will almost certainly be receiving the 2022 ACC Dual Meet title and while the Wolfpack wrestlers and coaches will have put in the work worthy of a title, the failures by Jim Phillips and Boo Corrigan will have made it reasonable to call it illegitimate.
This is a loss for the wrestlers and coaches of Virginia Tech and N.C. State first and foremost who deserve the right to compete fairly for a title. This is a loss for the growing brand of ACC Wrestling which loses the dual meet between the top two teams. This is a loss for the institutions who have seen this wrestling dual meet create a fun rivalry between two schools that aren't rivals elsewhere. This is a loss for fans of wrestling who love big time wrestling matchups and best-on-best showdowns.
So enjoy handing out that illegitimate 2022 ACC Dual Meet title to your team Boo Corrigan that deserves better and enjoy watching your first ACC Dual Meet title be illegitimate Jim Phillips because you overlooked winter sports that weren't basketball leaving the door open for something like to happen.
Or you could still fix this and reschedule this for the final weekend in February on what is an open weekend for both teams for the wrestlers and coaches who work hard for the chance to compete on the biggest stages and are the reasons why you have your jobs.