Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
The Virginia Tech wrestling team finished fifth place at the ACC Championships Sunday night. However, eight Hokies qualified for the NCAA Tournament in the process including Hunter Bolen who had the most impressive showing.
The Hokies had seven wrestlers in the first session with Hunter Bolen and Bryce Andonian receiving byes, and Mitch Moore advancing via medical forfeit. Three of those seven wrestlers won to advance to the semifinals.
First, Joey Prata defeated Pittsburgh's Louis Newell at 125 pounds. Next, David McFadden beat UVA's Cam Coy at 165 pounds. Finally, in the heavyweight class, John Borst defeated Andrew Gunning of UNC.
Collin Gerardi, B.C. LaPrade, Cody Hughes, and Stanley Smeltzer each fell in their opening matches, sending them to the consolation bracket in pursuit of automatic qualifier spots for the NCAA Tournament.
In the semifinals, three Hokies advanced for a chance to wrestle for an ACC title. Bryce Andonian, David McFadden, and Hunter Bolen also earned an NCAA Tournament bid with those wins.
Meanwhile, Joey Prata and John Borst lost in their matches, while Mitch Moore was forced to forfeit due to injury. That left six Hokies in the consolation bracket and three in the finals.
In the consolation bracket, Joey Prata and John Borst earned NCAA Tournament bids by earning third place. In addition, Collin Gerardi, BC Laprade, and Cody Hughes each earned additional spots allotted to the ACC.
Then it was on to the finals in primetime on the ACC Network.
The first Virginia Tech wrestler in the finals was freshman Bryce Andonian at 149 pounds. He gave 1 seed Austin O'Connor of UNC all he could handle, but Andonian ultimately fell in an 11-7 decision and took home second.
Next up, three-time All-American and 3 seed David McFadden took on 4 seed Jake Wentzel of Pittsburgh. McFadden was the favorite after Wentzel took out UNC's Kennedy Monday in an upset in the semifinals.
Surprisingly, Wentzel dominated the match. McFadden took an early lead after earning a technical point, but he did not get anything else going for him. A takedown for Wentzel and a subsequent three-plus minutes of riding time gave him a 3-1 victory.
Finally, Virginia Tech's #1 Hunter Bolen vs. NC State's #2 Trent Hidlay at 184 pounds was the marquee match of the night. In all likelihood, the match was for the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Bolen dominated the first period, but neither wrestler surrendered a point. Hidlay earned the first point with an escape, but Bolen quickly tied it up after a stall call.
In the third period, Bolen chose to start on bottom. He earned an escape to take a 2-1 lead.
For the rest of the match, Bolen took control. He fended off multiple shots by Hidlay and hung on to become Virginia Tech's only 2020 ACC Champion.
Overall, NC State took home their second straight title. Pittsburgh earned second in their home city with North Carolina finishing third and Virginia fourth. Only Duke finished behind the Hokies in the team score.
The good news for the Hokies is that eight wrestlers qualified for Minneapolis. In addition, Mitch Moore is almost certain to receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia Tech will have about a week and a half to prepare for the NCAA Tournament. The tournament will start on Thursday, March 19 in Minneapolis, MN.