Season 5 Column 35: Virginia Duals; historic event, new format

The Virginia Duals shift format but still feature lots of high level competition.

The 42nd Virginia Duals sets up as basically a two day 4 dual format this year starting Friday the 14th. Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Lock Haven, Kent St. and UTC will each wrestle Friday and, except Lock Haven, Saturday as well. Everybody has something to gain and lose from the field and the format so kudos to ALL the schools who stepped up for this years edition.

The Sooners come off a double digit break of days since they (and everybody else so far this year) were thumped by Oklahoma State. The Sooners face Lock Haven, Kent State, Virginia and Maryland. Lou Rossellis defending BIG 12 Co-Champs have had a very good season. They shined at the Michigan St. Open where they started the season with six finalists and three champs. The Sooners have been absolute road warriors with only 1 competition at home so far. They took seven out of 10 matches from a tough West Virginia team in Morgantown and 8 from Northern Colorado in Greeley. They’ve only lost to the Cowboys and Arizona State and shined again in Las Vegas at the CKLV. There, OU just missed the Top 10 while short two starters and seeing one, star 149lb Mitch Moore, go down after leading 13-2 in the consolation semi-finals. Unfortunately, he is still out. O-U may very well feature an adjusted lineup with recent Northern Colorado transfer Mosha Schwartz going at 141 and 2X AA Dom Demas sliding up to fill Moores slot at 149. AA 197lb Jake Woodley, underrated 184lb Darrien Roberts, and high flying 174lb Anthony Mantanona are a formidable upper weight combo for the Sooners.

Virginia is 3-2 so far, showing strong promise at the early-season Mat Town Open. The Cavaliers had 7 top two finishes and four champs. There was a bit of Virginia on Virginia violence at that event as both the 141 and 157 weight classes saw 4 ‘Hoos each in action. After falling to defending SoCon regular season and tournament champ Campbell, the Cavaliers were set to compete at the Midlands. When Northwestern chose to cancel that, a tri meet was scheduled. Or something like that was decided. In any case Virginia split that tri-meet by beating SIUE and dropping an 18-16 heartbreaker to Northwestern. Notable: the return of 197lb Jay Aiello, who won 3 matches, including an extra bout, on the day. Aeillo was freshly back from a Bronze medal performance for the USA at the Under-23 World Championships. Most recently UVA had 4 wrestlers place at the Franklin & Marshal Open. The Cavaliers will be nothing if not tested when they face Chattanooga, Lock Haven, Kent State and Oklahoma.

UTC has had a dual filled first half, going 3-5 and then putting two wrestlers on the podium at the Southern Scuffle. Moc front-end hammers 125lb Fabian Gutierrez and 133lb Brayden Palmer finished 6th and 3rd respectively at the Chattanooga event. Add in freshman 149lb Noah Castillo at 8-3 and UTCs top 3 lightweights are a combined 28-11. Good things were expected of Gutierrez and except for an as yet unsolved issue in the form of West Virginia AA Killian Cardinale (half of Gutierrezs losses this year) the 6th year senior sparkplug has delivered. That so many victories would come from the 1st part of the Mocs lineup so far is a little suprising given last years performances by athletes manning the 157-197 classes. Combined those starters are 22-23 with an asterisk, or rather a question mark, in the form of 197lb NCAA qualifier Logan Andrew. The stat sheet still reads M.I.A. and presumed injured for the sophomore star. No one has had significant success at that weight or at 285, though junior Grayson Walthall and freshman Matthias Ervin have shown desire commensurate with their size. In Walthalls case, perhaps even a bit more so. Newly added NIU transfer upperweight Nicholas Benton [SHOUT OUT, Miramar, FL, Somerset Academy] may provide assistance. The Mocs will need all hands, new and old, on deck as they drew Virginia and BIG 10 up and coming power Maryland for day one competition. UTC will see Kent State on Saturday if not one more foe. The brackets are online @ VirginiaDuals.MatTalkOnline. Sadly, HOF Broadcaster Jason Bryant will not be in attendance due to Covid protocols.

Lock Haven is putting in a 1 day appearance at the Duals, stepping up to take on Oklahoma and Virginia. What looks like a previously scheduled Saturday tri-meet with Bloomsburg and Cal Baptist at Bloomsburg will occupy the Bald Eagles on day two. BIG, BIG ups to Scott Moore and company for taking on the tournament this week with little to no notice. In case you didn’t know why this little school has such bigtime wrestling chops AND isn’t concerned about who’s on the other side of the mat, look no further than their staff. There’s Moore, in his 9th season mentoring athletic stars after his own 2xAA career, making the podium for both Penn State and Virginia. There’s JUCO National champ and 6th year assistant Nate Carr Jr., from perhaps the most famous multi-generational American wrestling family. Also pitching in is former Lock Haven AA and NCAA finalist Ronnie Perry, while former Pitt star heavyweight Ryan Solomon helps tune up the big Eagles.

Maryland, said this column long ago, was a sand trap for the career of dynamic Missouri Assistant wrestling coach Alex Clemsen. Well, the now BHHHC (1) of the Terrapins jumped into the hazard with 100% conviction and is fast becoming the ant bear at the bottom of the BIG 10 funnel. His Terps are grabbing unsuspecting foes ranked and unranked alike, building their resume with a pile of drained bodies and emptied dreams. Rarely has the author been more grateful to be so incorrect. Maryland is 3-3 and has standouts in graduate students 184lb Kyle Cochran and 197lb Jaxon Smith, along with rs. senior 285 Zach Schrader. Their haul so far this year; 5 tournament podium spots in 6 tries, including a Southern Scuffle title for Cochran and a 36-10 combined record. Forget the blowout loss last time out to Penn State, promise you the Terrapins have. This is a forward focused squad, folks, and they are growing better. Kent State and UTC are in front of Maryland Friday with a 6 p.m. Saturday showdown with the Sooners. Their match with the powerful Penn Quakers was kiboshed due to Covid-19 protocols within Penns program. The bet here is if an extra match materializes Saturday the Terps will take it.

Kent State is locked in for four matches in this, their 19th overall appearance at the Virginia Duals. They meet Maryland and Oklahoma Friday, then face UTC and Virginia Saturday. Only four schools have won more than 40 times at the Duals, and the Golden Flashes are one of those four. Kent State competed in five tournaments in the seasons 1st half, a run that started with 3 in a row on consecutive November weekends. Across the 5 events Kent State snagged 20 podium spots highlighted by multiple Silver medal finishes. Even better, the award-winning performances were spread among multiple weight classes. 141lb Louis Newell, the Pitt transfer, snagged 2nd at the Clarion Open. 8 Flashes found their spot at the App State invite as 174lb Michael Ferree was 2nd and 184lb Colin McCracken took 3rd. At the Navy Classic it was 125lb Jake Ferri and 149lb Kody Komara grabbing Silver. It was Ferri flying the Flashes flag (2) at the CKLV. McCracken took 2nd at the CSU Open where 285lb Flashes Jacob Cover and Brady Chrisman fought it out for 3rd with Cover coming out on top.

See you quite soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) Bald Headed Hero Head Coach. An acronym coined by the author to raise awareness on the direct relationship between Alopecia [or the Yul Brynner look] and wrestling coaching greatness.

2. Cringe-level alliteration is one of many perks when the author is the editor.