Take a look at the scores from recent Virginia Tech dual meets and you’d think the Hokies had become a pretty dominant team this season. But ask head coach Tony Robie, and you’ll get a more critical look at how the team has performed thus far.
“I feel like we have a really good team and it’s indicative of the score, but to be quite honest with you, I don’t feel like we wrestled nearly as well as we’re capable of wrestling at some weight classes,” Robie said after last Friday’s dual against Pitt.
That honest opinion came after the Hokies had just won eight of ten matches on the way to a 27-6 victory over the No. 13 team in the country. It’s hard to believe anyone could be upset after that result, but look a little closer and you’ll see why.
While Tech dominated the overall score, some weight classes were a little closer than they should have been. David McFadden, who was ranked sixth at 174 pounds at the time, won his match by a score of 7-3. Mekhi Lewis is the No. 8 wrestler at 165 pounds and won his match by just three points. Senior Zack Zavatsky managed to pick up a win over a ranked opponent, but only scored two points in the match.
All three of these guys have been dominant wrestlers for Tech this season, winning multiple major decisions via technical falls and falls. The fact that they weren’t their usual selves on Friday night got Robie to take a deep look at how his team performed.
This mentality of finding things to work on isn’t new for the Hokies’ head man. He has said all season that the team has aspects of the sport that they need to improve upon if they want to wrestle to the best of their ability.
“I think there’s a lot more that we need to work on going forward. We knew that going in, we had some challenges,” Robie said after the duals against Missouri and Northwestern. “I felt like we made a lot of mistakes, really. I feel like there were some areas technically that we could certainly improve on as a team. We’ve spent a lot of time in those areas, especially the bottom position.”
Tech lost both of those season-opening duals in what proved to be a tough weekend for the Hokies. But according to Robie, those losses were a blessing in disguise.
“That’s what the season’s for, I’ve said this a bunch of times,” he said. “You need to get exposed during the season and that’s why you open up with teams like Missouri and Northwestern. That wasn’t an easy weekend. We got exposed in some areas and that’s a good thing.”
The mentality of always getting better has clearly benefitted the Hokies this season. Since the back-to-back losses in November, Tech has won seven straight duals, all by a wide margin. They’ve beaten solid programs such as Princeton, Virginia, Chattanooga and Lehigh, among others. The team has shown lots of improvement, as Robie noted after the dual at West Virginia on Dec. 19.
Virginia Tech won 24-9, dominating in the Black Diamond Brawl. After the match, Robie pointed out that spending time working on the bottom position had paid off for the Hokies. But even after such a successful match, he still wasn’t completely satisfied.
“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,” he said. “We were close to bonus points in some places where we didn’t get them which is a little disappointing, but I feel like it’s a good way for us to end the semester.”
Robie expects the best out of his wrestlers if they want to accomplish their team and individual goals, and he knows the way they wrestled at times this season is not going to get them there.
“If we want to accomplish the things that we’re capable of accomplishing as a team, a lot of that stuff needs to change,” Robie said, referencing the way some of his guys finished their matches against Pitt.
That talk of accomplishments brings to mind what exactly it is that the Hokies hope to achieve this season. Last season’s squad won an ACC Championship and placed in the top 10 at the NCAA Championship, but that’s become expected of the program now.
“When we talk about goals and we talk about what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, we talk about hanging banners in our room,” Robie said. “In order to hang banners in our room, we’ve got to win ACC titles and we’ve got to place in the top four at the NCAA Championships. It’s definitely important winning ACC titles, whether it’s regular season or tournament.”
As long as their coach keeps pushing them, the Hokies are capable of achieving those goals this season. They’ve gotten off to a good start in ACC duals with the win over Pitt, and they’ll look to continue their hot streak against Duke tonight in Durham.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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