BLACKSBURG - The sixth-ranked Virginia Tech wrestling team won the first six bouts of the evening and held on late for an impressive 23-15 win over No. 12 Lehigh Friday night in front of over 1,600 fans inside Cassell Coliseum.
Sixteenth-ranked Jarrod Garnett got the Hokies on the board with an 8-3 win over Mitch Berger at 125 pounds. Garnett used a pair of takedowns to build a 7-2 lead and used a riding time point for the win. A top-20 matchup was up next as ninth-ranked Devin Carter took on 20th-ranked Frank Cagnina. Both wrestlers picked up takedowns in the first period, but it was Carter’s reversal that gave him a brief lead before Cagnina escaped to tie it up. In the second period, Carter got a takedown late to take the lead and picked up a quick escape to start the third period to extend his lead to 9-6. He picked up three takedowns in the third period to stretch the lead and flirted with a major decision, but settled for a 16-9 win.
Zach Neibert, filling in for 19th-ranked Chris Diaz at 141 pounds, took the mat next in a pivotal swing match against Stephon Dutton. Neibert, who came in with an 18-6 record, proved up to the challenge as he took down Dutton quickly and put him right to his back before pinning him just 55 seconds in for six huge team points that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
At 149 pounds, eighth-ranked Brian Stephens broke a tie late to down Joey Napoli. The sophomore got a crucial takedown with over a minute left in the third period to take a 3-1 lead and hung on for the 3-2 win to make it 15-0. At 157 pounds, eighth-ranked Jesse Dong took to the mat for the Hokies against Sean Bilodeau. Dong worked hard for a takedown late in the first period and then he escaped in the second period to make it 3-0. Dong took Bilodeua down early in the third and picked up a point for riding time to win 6-0 and give Tech a 18-0 lead heading to the break.
Moving to 165 pounds, 15th-ranked Pete Yates got a quick takedown against Lehigh back-up Josh Fitch to get things started right. He let him go and took him down again, right to his back and locked in the cradle. After several moments of fighting, Yates, finally picked up the pin at the 1:39 mark to keep the momentum rolling for the Hokies.
Twelfth-ranked Austin Meys got the Mountain Hawks (10-6) on the board with a pin over Matt Epperly at 165 pounds. Meys got a takedown in the first period and led in the second period before Epperly got in on his legs in the second period. But Meys worked his magic and locked a cradle off the scramble in to pin Epperly at the 4:19 mark. Heading into the 184 pound match, Tech’s John Dickson could not be found and wasn’t ready in uniform, so Tech was deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct to make it 23-6. He then had to take on fourth-ranked Robert Hamlin and Hamlin didn’t make life easy for Dickson. Hamlin got a takedown in the first period and led 3-1 after two stanzas. Dickson escaped in the third period to make it 3-2, but Hamlin got a takedown midway through the period to ice it. Hamlin pulled away for the 8-3 victory, but picked up only three teams points, which sealed the win for Tech.
The final two matches featured top-15 wrestlers for the Mountain Hawks, starting with 12th-ranked Joe Kennedy at 197 pounds. Penny got in on several shots early on, but couldn’t convert. In the second period, Kennedy got an escape and takedown to grab a 3-0 lead and then rode him for the final 1:24 of the period. Penny got a penalty point when Kennedy was hit with his second stall warning, but Kennedy got a late takedown and a point for riding time to win 6-1. In the final match of the night, top-ranked Zach Rey downed Tech’s David Marone, 5-2 at heavyweight. Rey took him down early in the first period, but Marone battled back with a pair of escapes to tie it up in the second period. With the large crowd squarely behind the underdog, Rey escaped early on to make it 3-2 and Marone tried several shot attempts, but couldn’t get in on him and Rey got a takedown at the buzzer to win the close bout.
As a team, we we ready to go tonight, especially considering that we had a rough weekend last weekend.” head coach Kevin Dresser said. “This shows me that we have the character to get it done through some hard times.
“Zach Neibert was the spark we needed at 141," Dresser continued. "I told the guys on Thursday before practice that we needed a spark and 141 was our spark tonight.”
Tech (15-4) will be back in action at home next Saturday night, taking on defending ACC champion Virginia at 7 o’clock. Admission, as always is free and the squad will attempt to break the attendance record for a wrestling match inside Cassell Coliseum with a goal of 5,000 fans.
#6 Virginia Tech 23, #12 Lehigh 15
125: #16 Jarrod Garnett (VT) dec. Mitch Berger, 8-3
133: #9 Devin Carter (VT) dec. #20 Frank Cagnina, 16-9
141: Zach Neibert (VT) fall Stephen Dutton, :55
149: #8 Brian Stephens (VT) dec. Joey Napoli, 3-2
157: #8 Jesse Dong (VT) dec. Sean Bilodeau, 6-0
165: #15 Pete Yates (VT) fall Josh Fitch, 1:39
174: #12 Austin Meys (L) fall Matt Epperly, 4:19
184: #4 Robert Hamlin (L) dec. John Dickson, 8-3 *
197: #12 Joe Kennedy (L) dec. Chris Penny, 6-1
285: #1 Zach Rey (L) dec. David Marone, 5-2
* Tech deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct prior to 184-pound match
For updates on Virginia Tech wrestling, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Wrestling).