BLACKSBURG - The 16th-ranked Virginia Tech wrestling team will head north for an important ACC dual match Friday night against No. 6 Pittsburgh with a share of the new ACC dual meet title on the line. The Hokies and Panthers will meet at 7 p.m. inside Fitzgerald Field House in a match that will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Hokies are 15-2 overall and 4-1 in the ACC while the Panthers are 11-1, 4-0 in the conference. For the first time, the conference is officially recognizing a dual meet team title and with this being the Hokies’ last ACC dual meet, a win would assure them of no worse than a share of the trophy. Pitt will have one ACC dual meet left (at North Carolina on Feb. 22) and UVa is also in the thick of things at 3-1 in the conference with matches against UNC and NC State left. Virginia beat Tech earlier, but lost to Pitt.
The Panthers could send out five ranked wrestlers Friday night and finish strong with each of their final four weight classes featuring a guy ranked in the top 20 of one of the two major polls. Edgar Bright is ranked 15th by Amateur Wrestling News at 141 pounds while Tyler Wilps (7th at 174 pounds), Max Thomusseit (6th by InterMat at 184 pounds), Nick Bonaccorsi (18th by InterMat at 197 pounds) and P.J. Tasser (20th by InterMat at heavyweight) are all ranked. Anthony Zanetta (125 pounds) has 17 wins, Shelton Mack (133 pounds) has 20 wins and Mike Racciato (149 pounds) had 20 wins, but none are ranked despite the lofty win totals.
SCOUTING THE HOKIES
The Hokies will trot out five ranked wrestlers who appear in the latest Amateur Wrestling News Poll. True freshman Joey Dance sits at 16th with a 17-5 record and at 5-0 in the ACC, can lock up the top seed at next month’s ACC Championship with a win. Zach Neibert is ranked 17th at 149 pounds while Nick Vetterlein is ranked 17th at 184 pounds. At 197 pounds, Chris Penny sits at 18th while redshirt freshman Ty Walz is ranked 18th at heavyweight.
NO LUCK AGAINST THE PANTHERS
Virginia Tech is 0-10 all-time against the Panthers in dual meets and this will be the first conference match since 2004 when the two schools were both in the EWL.
When Devin Carter tore his hamstring on Dec. 6 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, it meant the Hokies lost their top point scorer and potential national champion at 141 pounds. The redshirt junior was off to a 12-0 start and was ranked third in all the major polls. Carter was a 2012 NCAA All-American and is a two-time ACC Champion who has garnered bonus points in 64 of his 83 career wins (74.7 percent). He’ll be back next season as a redshirt senior looking to bounce back in a big way for the Hokies.
DON’T DOUBT DRESSER
When Tom Brands scurried off to Iowa in the middle of the night back in 2006, he took several top wrestlers with him, leaving the Virginia Tech program in shambles. After flirting with the notion of dropping the sport, the Tech administration took a chance on local high school coach Kevin Dresser. He was a familiar name in the New River Valley as he was the head coach at Christiansburg High School for 10 seasons, winning the Group AA state title five times and claiming second place three times. Prior to his stint in Christiansburg, he led Grundy High School to eight titles in as many years.
Many said he couldn’t get it done at the college level, or at Virginia Tech, but he’s proved them wrong. He’s turned the Hokies into a perennial top-15 program and has continuously brought in top recruiting classes. Now in his eighth season, he is 109-43 in dual matches, 30-9 in ACC duals. Last season, he led Tech to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championship with four All-Americans, both records for the program.
A BARN BURNER IN 2013
The Panthers won a non-conference match-up last year in Fitzgerald Field House, using a pin from heavyweight Zac Thomusseit in the tiebreaker from the bottom position to pull out a wild 18-16 victory over the No. 11 Hokies.
Below is the agate from the 2013 match up between the two teams. The Hokies will send out only three competitors Friday night who wrestled in that match and only two are at the same weight class. None of Tech’s competitors Friday night have met any Pitt wrestlers this season in any tournament.
#18 Pittsburgh (1-2) 18, #11 Virginia Tech (3-2) 16
125: #7 Jarrod Garnett (VT) maj. dec. Derrick Nelson, 14-3
133: #7 Shelton Mack (P) dec. Erik Spjut, 3-2
141: #10 Zach Neibert (VT) dec. Travis Shaffer, 6-3
149: #10 Nick Brascetta (VT) dec. Donnie Tasser, 10-3
157: #8 Jesse Dong (VT) dec. Troy Reaghard, 9-3
165: #4 Pete Yates (VT) vs. #11 Tyler Wilps, 4-2
174: Nick Bonaccorsi (P) dec. Austin Gabel, 3-2 (SV-2)
184: #14 Max Thomusseit (P) dec. Nick Vetterlein, 3-1
197: #2 Matt Wilps (P) dec. Derrick Borlie, 8-2
285: #9 Zac Thomusseit (P) fall David Marone, 8:49 (TB-1)
The Hokies will wrap up the dual meet portion of their schedule with an appearance in the NWCA National Duals next weekend in Columbus, Ohio before wrestling at Ohio State on Feb. 23. The Hokies will host the 2014 ACC Wrestling Championship on Saturday, March 8 inside Cassell Coliseum.
Below are the probables for both teams, as submitted by the respective coaching staffs.
#16 Virginia Tech (15-2, 4-1 ACC)
125: #16/#19 Joey Dance (17-5)
133: Dennis Gustafson (12-7)
141: Erik Spjut (11-13)
149: #17/#17 Zach Neibert (14-6)
157: Sal Mastriani (8-10)
165: Chris Moon (15-3)
174: Austin Gabel (11-4) or John Dickson (8-10)
184: #17/#17 Nick Vetterlein (18-5)
197: #18/#20 Chris Penny (19-8)
285: #18/NR Ty Walz (20-7)
No. 6 Pittsburgh (11-1, 4-0 ACC)
125: Anthony Zanetta (17-6)
133: Shelton Mack (20-7) or Derrick Nelson (7-4)
141: #15/#20 Edgar Bright (14-6)
149: Mikey Racciato (20-8)
157: Eric Nutter (12-7) or Cole Sheptock (10-13) or Ronnie Garbinsky (16-5)
165: Geno Morelli (10-11)
174: #7/#7 Tyler Wilps (22-5)
184: #8/#6 Max Thomusseit (12-1)
197: NR#18 Nick Bonaccorsi (16-9)
285: NR/#20 P.J. Tasser (14-5) or Mike Gregory (7-8)
WHAT ELSE IS ON TAP
The following wrestlers will compete on Saturday in the Edinboro Open inside the Mike S. Zafirovski Sports and Recreation Dome on the campus of Edinboro University:
133: Kevin Norstrem (unattached)
141: Nick Anderson
141: Jerry Ronnau
149: Cameron Bowen
149: Mattheos Lozier (unattached)
157: Nick Brascetta (unattached)
157: Mason Mele (unattached)
157: Chad Strube
165: David Wesley (unattached)
165: David Bergida (unattached)
174: Zach Epperly (unattached)
174: Brooks Morrison
197: Jared Haught (unattached)
197: Henry Mauk (unattached)
197: David Reck (unattached)
285: Dan Garwood (unattached)
285: Brandon Taylor
For updates on Virginia Tech wrestling, follow the Hokies on Twitter Follow @VT_Wrestling