A big weekend looms ahead for Virginia Tech wrestling. The No. 14 Hokies, coming off an upset loss to UNC last weekend, will host No. 9 Cornell and No. 22 Virginia this weekend.
The Hokies have been putting together a solid season and had won eight straight duals going into the match at UNC. They'll look to regain some momentum this weekend as they take on two of the top programs in the country.
The dual against Cornell will be Tech's fourth top 15 matchup of the season. The Big Red come into Cassell Coliseum for the first time ever on Friday night. They bring an 11-2 record, losing only to Missouri and Lehigh. Cornell has been one of the more dominant teams in recent history, and their lineup this season is one to be reckoned with.
They start with three straight ranked wrestlers from the 125 to 141 weight classes, including the No. 1 wrestler at 141. Yianni Diakomihalis is the reigning national champion, going 37-1 last season to claim the title. He's off to a 17-0 start to his sophomore season, picking up wins over four ranked wrestlers this year.
He'll face off against true freshman Mitch Moore tonight when he steps on to the mat. Moore has gotten off to a solid start to his career, going 15-4 thus far. He has nine pins on the season, seven of which have come in the first period. He'll have to wrestle his best if he wants to knock off Diakomihalis, but it should make for a good match.
From 149 to 165, the Big Red are unranked, though all wrestlers have impressive records this season. Cornell has three more ranked wrestlers at 174, 184 and 197. No. 7 David McFadden will wrestle against No. 14 Brandon Womack at 174 pounds while No. 3 Zack Zavatsky will take on No. 13 Max Dean at 184 pounds.
In all, there is potential for four ranked bouts on Friday night against Cornell. The closest ranked matchup will be at 197, where No. 9 Tom Sleigh will face No. 7 Ben Honis. The Hokies have relied on their heavier weights to win some duals for them in recent years, but given the toughness of Cornell's lineup, the entire Tech squad will have to be at their best to pull off the victory.
Once the Hokies get past Cornell, they'll face with another tough task as No. 22 Virginia comes to town. Tech and UVA will square off at the Moss Arts Center on Saturday night.
The two teams have already faced each other once this season at the Virginia Duals, with Tech winning that matchup 37-5. That dual did not count as an ACC match and no points in the Commonwealth Clash were awarded.
Virginia Tech currently leads the Commonwealth Clash 4-3, and can secure another team point with a victory over UVA on Saturday. The Hokies won nine of 10 bouts in the first meeting against the Hoos this season, losing only at 125 pounds.
Sleigh will have another tough match against UVA as he'll face No. 10 Jay Aiello. Sleigh won the first meeting by a 7-3 decision when Aiello was ranked No. 7 in the country.
With Tech's loss to UNC last weekend, the Hokies are tied with NC State for second place in the ACC. If they want to stay in contention for the ACC Dual title, they'll need a win against UVA this weekend.
UNC and NC State wrestle this weekend as well, so there is potential for a three-way tie in the conference standings. If, however, UNC is able to pull off another upset win, the Tar Heels will have sole possession of first place going into next week's season finale against Duke.
Virginia Tech's big weekend begins at 6 p.m. tonight when the dual against Cornell begins in Cassell Coliseum.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics