No. 5 Tech wins another over a ranked foe, knocking off No. 16 South Dakota State

(16) South Dakota State15
(5) Virginia Tech 29

BLACKSBURG – Less than 16 hours after winning the ACC’s dual meet championship with a victory over NC State, the Virginia Tech wrestling team took to the mat again and showed no sign of a letdown, as the No. 5 Hokies rolled to a 29-15 win over No. 16 South Dakota State in front of 1,097 fans at Virginia Tech Carilion Court on Sunday.

Getting wins from three of the five seniors who were recognized on Senior Day – Ty Walz, Joey Dance and Sal Mastriani – the Hokies pulled away to move to 17-1 overall on the season and 7-1 against ranked opponents. South Dakota State fell to 13-4.

“I intentionally put a back-to-back [matches] together where we got done late and had to get up and make weight again just because I wanted to simulate the NCAA tournament a little bit,” Tech coach Kevin Dresser said. “That was my thought process. When I set it up, I didn’t realize South Dakota State would be as good as they are. I knew NC State would be formidable, and there would be a lot of pressure on us, so I wanted to have a pressure situation and I wanted to have a back-to-back situation.

“They [South Dakota State] were fresh, and we weren’t. We didn’t wrestle great in situations, but we grinded. That’s what we’ll have to do in St. Louis [site of the NCAA Championships], and we haven’t been great on a lot of Friday mornings [the second day] in St. Louis. So we needed to do this.”

For the second straight match, the Hokies fell behind, as Tech’s David Bergida lost 9-4 at 165 pounds. But the Hokies quickly recovered when Zach Epperly downed South Dakota State’s David Kocer 3-1 at 174 pounds with a takedown in sudden victory. Epperly, ranked No. 5 at 174, moved to 17-1 on the season.

Tech’s Zack Zavatsky then rebounded from his loss Saturday night with an 8-3 win over Martin Mueller at 184 pounds. Zavatsky, who is ranked fourth in his weight class, registered two of his three takedowns in the third period and received a point for riding time to get the victory.

Tech pushed its lead to 12-3 when Jared Haught won by forfeit at 197 pounds. Then Walz and Dance all but sealed this one with technical falls in the next two matches.

Walz, who is ranked fifth nationally at heavyweight, jumped on Alex Macki right from the start, scoring twice on takedowns and adding four points on a near fall in the first period. He finished the match with seven takedowns and won 20-5 (5:49), moving to 19-2 on the season.

Then Dance, ranked third at 125, easily handled the Jackrabbits’ Ben Gillette. He, too, started fast, taking down Gillette three times in the first period. He finished with six takedowns and two near falls to record a 19-4 (6:07) win and move to 22-1 on the season.

“We still need to improve at some weights, but those are some guys who can get on the podium,” Dance said. “We’ve got to get that right in the [wrestling] room. We’ll go back and fix that, and they’ll be ready. We’ll all be ready for ACCs coming up and National Duals next weekend.”

Dance’s victory pushed the Hokies’ lead to 22-3. The Jackrabbits recorded pins at 133 and 141 pounds to cut the lead to 22-15, but the Hokies’ Solomon Chishko survived a tough match at 149 pounds to end things. Chishko, who is ranked sixth in this weight class, led 6-2 in the third period and wound up needing a takedown in sudden victory to get an 8-6 win.

Mastriani closed things with an impressive 14-4 major decision victory over Logan Peterson at 157 pounds. Like classmates Walz and Dance, the No. 15 wrestler at 157 got out quickly, leading 6-2 after the first period thanks to three takedowns. A takedown and an escape in the second period pushed his lead to 9-2, and he moved to 15-4 on the season.

“Sal’s on an upswing,” Dresser said. “He’s really wrestling well right now. I think he’s healthy, and he’s paid his dues. He’s doing the right things right now.”

The Hokies now gear up for the National Duals, which will take place next weekend. Tech will face a Big Ten opponent to be determined Sunday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Virginia Tech Carilion Court. The matchups will be announced later Sunday evening.

No. 5 Hokies 29, No. 16 South Dakota State 15
165: Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State) dec. David Bergida (VT), 9-4
174: No. 5 Zach Epperly (VT) dec. No. 16 David Kocer (South Dakota State), 3-1, SV
184: No. 4 Zack Zavatsky (VT) dec. Martin Mueller (South Dakota State), 8-3
197: No. 3 Jared Haught (VT) wins by forfeit
285: No. 5 Ty Walz (VT) tech. fall Alex Macki (South Dakota State), 20-5 (5:49)
125: No. 3 Joey Dance (VT) tech. fall Ben Gillette (South Dakota State), 19-4 (6:07)
133: No. 2 Seth Gross (South Dakota State) fall Dennis Gustafson (VT), 6:35
141: Henry Pohlmeyer (South Dakota State) fall Brendan Ryan (VT), 1:14
149: No. 6 Solomon Chishko (VT) dec. No. 16 Alex Kocer (South Dakota State), 8-6, SV
157: No. 15 Sal Mastriani (VT) major decision Logan Peterson (South Dakota State) 14-4

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