BLACKSBURG - Despite a slew of injuries and some untimely departures, the Virginia Tech wrestling squad finished the regular season with a 17-5 overall record, a 4-0 ACC mark and is ranked as a team in both major polls as the team prepares for the ACC Championships, to be held March 6 at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum. The Hokies are ranked 14th as a team by InterMat and 19th by the National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA).
With a lineup featuring basically just five wrestlers who were slated to be starters at the 10 weight classes, it’s impressive that six grapplers are now nationally ranked at their respective weight class, including Brian Stephens, who was supposed to redshirt but now finds himself ranked as high as 15th in the country at 149 pounds.
Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the ACC Championships with rankings and records. Note, the records used will be the ones used by the committee when determining Gold and Silver status for qualification purposes, slated to come out Thursday. These include all wrestled matches at the weight class they will compete at against only Division 1 competition, regardless of whether the athlete wrestled attached or unattached.
125: Jarrod Garnett (20-5) - ranked 13th by W.I.N. Magazine and 14th by both InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News; will likely be the top seed at the ACC Championships; a near-lock to qualify for NCAAs as a probable Gold qualifier
133: Brock LiVorio (10-4) - stepped in after recovering from a knee injury early on to fill in for starter Erik Spjut, who went down with a knee injury of his own; will need to win the ACC Championship to qualify for NCAA Championships
141: Chris Diaz (26-3) - ranked fourth by W.I.N. Magazine, 10th by InterMat and 11th by AWN; will be one of the top two seeds at the ACC Championships; a near-lock to qualify for NCAAs as a probable Gold qualifier
149: Brian Stephens (21-10) - ranked 15th in the country by Amateur Wrestling News and 18th by W.I.N. Magazine; was slated to redshirt but after a knee injury to starter Pete Yates, now finds himself as a possible top seed at the ACC Championships; has won 10 matches in a row; has a good shot to qualify for NCAAs even if he doesn’t win the title
157: Jesse Dong (30-3) - ranked third by W.I.N. Magazine, fourth by AWN and fifth by InterMat; will likely be the top seed at the ACC Championships; a near-lock to qualify for NCAAs as a probable Gold qualifier
165: Matt Epperly (18-9) - ranked 19th by AWN; will be one of the top two seeds at the ACC Championships; needs to win the ACC title or get some help to earn an at-large bid based on his winning percentage; wrestled two matches at 174 pounds which he won that don’t count in his record toward qualification
174: Taylor Knapp (0-5) - certified at 149 pounds to begin the year but has bumped up to help out the team several weight classes up after the starter quit the team midseason; is 11-17 overall but most of his bouts were at 149 and 157 pounds; will need to win the ACC Championship to qualify for NCAA Championships
184: Tommy Spellman (25-9) - ranked 17th by AWN and W.I.N. Magazine and 18th by InterMat; will likely be the top seed at the ACC Championships; a near-lock to qualify for NCAAs as a probable Gold or Silver qualifier
197: Chris Penny (3-14) - pushed into full-time duties at 197 after a knee injury to D.J. Bruce sidelined him for the year; bumped up to heavyweight and won a match to help propel Tech to a big win over Old Dominion; will need to win the ACC Championship to qualify for NCAA Championships
285: Tim Miller (0-6) - A true 197-pounder who is helping out the team by bumping up to heavyweight after the two heavyweights went down with shoulder injuries; won three matches at 197 pounds; if Tech wrestles him, will need to win the ACC Championship to qualify for NCAA Championships
For updates on Virginia Tech wrestling, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Wrestling).