[EDITORS NOTE: The Atlantic Coast Conference ruled the NC ST-VT match a cancelation. Conference policy is that without a reschedule, to award a forfeit. Apparently VT requested a reschedule and was denied. The remainder of the column remains, to the best of the authors knowledge, accurate.]
From North Carolina to Michigan and from the East Coast to the West the weather turned cold as conference dual season heated up.
It’s been a busy second half start to January and suprises have been abundant. Arizona State took their Top 10 ranking to the East Coast and dropped back to back matches to Pittsburgh and Princeton. They will reset at home this weekend and Monday with PAC 12 matches against Cal St. Bakersfield and Cal Poly. The Sun Devils will be short AA Hvywt. Cohlton Schulz, who’s abusing foreigners in Zagreb for Team USA Greco. Bigger question is can the Sun Devils solidify their 174lb and 184lb roster spots. 3 Sun Devils, Schultz, 165lb AA Anthony Valencia, and 157lb AA Jacori Teemer [PAC 12 wrestler of the week] are all undefeated. 125lb AA Brandon Courtney, last years finalist, and 149lb AA Kyle Parco have just 1 loss each. 133lb AA Michael McGee is more than ready.That star power will serve the Sun Devils well come tournament time, but some uneven performances elsewhere have cost ASU in duals. And may yet.
Stanford’s stunning resurrection continues as the Cardinal bumped Little Rock 22-18 without four starters and coming off quarantine. Rob Kolls crew has the rest of their PAC 12 schedule jammed between the 4th and 20th of February after a Jan. 29th date with Menlo College.
ACC action begins with a vengeance Friday night the 21st as Virginia Tech visits NC State. Folks, this one is every bit as big as Penn States same day contest at Michigan and with just about as many ranked versus ranked wrestler matchups. Two very intriguing tussles in the WolfPack-Hokies matchup: NC ST 2XAA 149lb Tariq “The Freak” Wilson vs. VTs 2021 Junior World medalist Bryce “Bomber” Andonian, and at 174, 2019 NCAA and 2018 World Junior Champ Mekhi Lewis of Tech faces the Packs 4X AA Hayden Hidlay. Between the four: 6 All American honors, 7 individual ACC titles, 12 trips to the NCAAs, and nada a matchup between them in college till Friday night. EVERY single match in this dual will be wrestled at maximum intensity. One more note-the winner of this dual has captured the ACC regular season title 6 years running.
Pitt may have something to say about that. The Panthers have used a brutal non conference schedule to prepare themselves for an ACC title run and NCAA success. Ohio State, Michigan and Lehigh mark the Panthers 3 dual defeats but there’s been a lot more success. Double digit wins over tough squads from Buffalo, Maryland, and Army West Point. A tournament team title at the Matmen Open, where the Panthers had eight placewinners and one titlist, 157lb Elijah Cleary. The Panthers forward progress was on clear display at the Open and in the Arizona State win. Friday Top 25 Virginia comes to #Pinzburgh with two undefeated wrestlers, 165lb Justin McCoy and Under-23 World Bronze Medalist 197lb Jay Aiello. It was a one point win for the ‘Hoos over the Panthers in Charlottesville last season. McCoy will be across the mat from Pitts 165lb National finalist Jake Wentzel. Aiello will see 197lb National finalist Nino Bonnacorsi. Each team boasts 7 ranked wrestlers.
Its Blue on Blue violence in Chapel Hill as North Carolina hosts Duke in their 97th mat matchup. Most have gone the Tar Heels way but Duke Coach Glen Lanham has a full squad this season. Not predicting a Blue Devils team triumph, just another ACC big time throwdown. Will take this time to reiterate a preseason prediction or two, though. The ACC will put 3 teams in the top 15 at the NCAAs and the state of North Carolina will have 5 or 6 squads in the top 30 when the music stops in Detroit.
The SoCon is stepping up to that prediction with stellar efforts by Campbell and App State this year. The Mountaineers ran off 6 straight wins over in state rival Duke in a 22-12 win. Friday App State hosts conference foe VMI and PAC 12 affiliate member Little Rock in a tri-meet, a good test for all three squads. JohnMark Bentleys Mountaineers are led by 149lb AA Johnathan Millner, [SoCon wrestler of the week] one of six ranked App State grapplers. The team sits #22 overall and will be favored in every dual the rest of the way. Their own Appalachian Open, depending on the field, may provide the only opportunity for ranking improvement until the post season tournament.
The Camels were missing all star Josh Heil but still made the finals of last weeks Chippewa Challenge. Not saying the undefeated Heils presence would have flipped the 19-15 loss from host Central Michigan to a Camels win but…..hmm. 4 Camels ran the table at the Challenge. 125lb All Overlooked and Underrated team member Korbin Meink, 133lb Dominic Zaccone, 174lb Austin Murphy, and 184lb Caleb Hopkins were perfecto for the Humpsters on the day. The word is now out on smooth, strong, athletic Camels Hvywt. Taye Ghadiali, who took CMU 2XAA Hvywt. Matt Stencel to OT in the events final match. Bakersfield and American, both rebounding teams with dynamic new coaches, brought great effort with results to follow for this season and beyond.
In other SoCon news UTC was competitive but came up short at the Virginia Duals, dropping 10 and 5 point matches to Maryland and Kent State before being overwhelmed by a powerful South Dakota State squad. The Mocs came away with some key individual wins in countable matches against Virginia, and will be back in action next weekend against Gardner Webb and defending conference champ Campbell. It’s still the lightweight show for the Mocs and they’ll need full roster effort for the SoCon run.
Kudos to Gardner-Webb for toughing out a difficult trip home after their road win over Bellarmine in Louisville. Road and restaurant closures forced an unplanned overnight and a grocery store run for dinner. Just made the 24-15 win sweeter. They traveled to Lexington, Virginia to dual VMI Thursday.
The Keydets of Jim Gibson are slowly making their roster younger and better, finding their progress match by match. While they had just two wins against Frank Beasleys fired up George Mason Patriots in a 31-8 setback, four Keydets fell by a total of only 9 points. Big gun 197lb Tyler Mousaw continued a quality return with a gritty decision win while 184lb Zach Brown rolled to a tech fall victory.
Andy Lausiers Davidson Wildcats turned the corner into the seasons second half with their first win, a 20-18 defeat of Franklin and Marshall. Senior stars 133lb Kyle Gorant and 285lb Mitchell Trigg, linchpins from Coach Lausiers first recruiting class, had key wins. From 157 through 174 Bryce Sanderlin, Jayden Hardrick and Anthony Spera did their things with 3 straight decision victories. Finally, Finlay Holston at 197 set the stage for #BiggTrigg heroics when FH shut out his F&M foe 4-0. This Friday it’s a road match with Bellarmine, Sunday an away contest with Ohio.
Both the Citadel and Presbyterian have been dealing with Covid-19 issues, affecting both home and road matches. Ryan LeBlancs Bulldogs are set to return to action the 23rd against Campbell, while Presbyterian has missed conference matches with Campbell, Bellarmine and VMI. On their official schedule they’re not set for action again till February 13th versus UTC.
Bellarmines Season 2, SoCon style, has been a challenge. At 1-11 they have been at times competitive and at times not as much. Coach Ned Shuck sees individual progress as a main marker for this year. Devan Hendricks, Cole Nance and Erick Beck have 30 wins between them. The Knights enter a schedule stretch that just may give them an opportunity to steal a win or two before their season ends. They will not be eligible for post season yet due to their changing classification, so look for a hard charge from the Knights these last six weeks.
BIG win for the Cleveland State Vikings as they row above .500 with an 18-15 win over hotter than a pepper sprout Clarion. CSU is now 2-1 in the MAC, 5-4 overall. All Overlooked and Underrated 184lb team member DeAndre Nasser gritted out an OT win in the victory. CSU also announced a new funding effort, The Vikings Weight Class Champions Wrestling Scholarship Funding Campaign. Hope they can find an acronym in there as well as some donors. Seriously, call that double drop of CSU news a WIN, WIN for sure.
As mentioned earlier undefeated Michigan hosts undefeated Penn State Friday. Quite frankly it could be anything from a criteria decided match to a 20 plus point win for either team.
SHOUT OUT to Chris Bonos Wisconsin Badgers, who beat Brandon Eggums Minnesota Gophers 21-15. It was Wiskys first win over Da Gophers on the road in 10 years. It was not a rout as a Wisconsin story over excitedly proclaimed. But it was a victory. This Friday they host Nebraska. Wear white and Jump around!
See you sometime soon!