Five Hokies earn All-America honors on second day at NCAA Wrestling Championships

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Five Virginia Tech wrestlers earned All-America honors, and the Hokies sit in eighth place in the team competition after the second day of competition at the NCAA Wrestling Championships being held at the Scottrade Center.

Ty Walz and Jared Haught, the lone two Hokies to advance to the semifinals in their respective weight classes, along with Joey Dance, Solomon Chishko and Sal Mastriani all earned All-America recognition Friday. Walz became a three-time All-American – only the third Hokie to do so (Devin Carter, Nick Brascetta) – while Haught, Dance and Chishko earned the recognition for the second time in their careers. Mastriani, a fifth-year senior, is an All-American for the first time.

Largely behind their performances, the Hokies have 53.5 points, just four points behind seventh-place Cornell and 6.5 points behind sixth-place Minnesota — and with four guys competing on Saturday.

“I thought a lot better Friday night than I did Friday morning [after the quarterfinals],” Tech interim coach Tony Robie said. “I thought our guys did a good job for the most part. This is an individual event, and you have to process things individually for each guy. But tonight, especially in the consolation rounds, I thought we did a good job … Really proud of the effort our guys gave tonight.

“We brought seven guys, and five of them are All-Americans. Four of them have a chance to get third, so there is a lot of wrestling to be done.”

Walz, the No. 3 seed at heavyweight, nearly found himself in Saturday’s final. In the semifinal match against Wisconsin’s Connor Medbery, Walz tied things at 3 with a third-period takedown. Medbery escaped, however, and held off Walz for the 4-3 win. He’ll face No. 5 seed Nick Nevills of Penn State on Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals.

Walz got to the semifinals with a win over unseeded Conan Jennings of Northwestern in the quarterfinals. He finished with six takedowns and amassed more than three minutes of riding time en route to a 15-4 win by major decision over Jennings.

Like Walz, Haught took care of business in the quarterfinals, beating No. 5 seed Matt McCutcheon of Penn State. He got an early takedown, and after a McCutcheon escape, added another takedown to take a 4-1 lead after the first period. He added a takedown in the second period and an escape in the third period, notching a 7-3 win.

In the semifinals Friday evening, he faced top seed, two-time national champion and Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox of Missouri. Cox got a first-period takedown, an escape in the second period and a takedown early in the third period to grab a 5-0 lead. Haught got a reversal late in the match, but lost 6-2. He’ll face No. 6 seed Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State on Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals.

“This is a tough deal, and the further you go in the championship round, the more difficult it gets,” Robie said. “They’re disappointed, but these guys understand what it’s about. We talk about it all the time. Once it’s over, it’s over. I’m not worried about either of those guys. We’ve got great kids that have great attitudes, and their desire to win is strong.”

Facing No. 10 Jack Mueller of Virginia in the quarterfinals, Dance, the No. 2 seed at 125 pounds, struggled and trailed 2-0 in the third period after officials awarded Mueller a caution point. Mueller then escaped after Dance let him because Dance was going to lose 1-0 otherwise. Needing a takedown, Dance got it late in the third period to tie the match at 2 and force overtime. In overtime, though, Mueller took down Dance and pulled off the 4-2 upset.

Yet Dance responded by winning both matches in the consolation bracket. He used a takedown in overtime to knock off No. 5 seed Tim Lambert of Nebraska by a score of 3-1, and then he broke a 2-2 stalemate with Campbell’s Nathan Kraisser with a second-period takedown. Dance made it stand en route to a 4-2 victory. Now, he faces top seed Thomas Gilman of Iowa in a consolation semifinal match on Saturday. Gilman was upset in Friday’s semifinals.

“I thought that win [over Lambert] was one of the big wins of his career,” Robie said. “Maybe not against a guy with a huge name, but just how he won the match. I was really proud of his effort.

“There was nothing he could do about the loss [afterward]. You have to move on, and you have to wipe the slate clean. You can’t go back in the past and change things. But I really wanted him to feel good about the end of his wrestling career, and that was the message to him. It was, ‘Hey, you’ve got to feel good about this. We know we’re capable, so let’s come back and storm through the wrestlebacks and let’s leave this event with our head high.’”

Chishko, the No. 6 seed at 149, found the going tough against No. 3 seed Lavion Mayes of Missouri in the quarterfinals. Mayes rode Chishko for the entire second period and then grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third on an escape and a takedown. Chishko escaped twice in the middle portion of the period, but couldn’t get in on Mayes for a takedown. Mayes’ 2:44 in riding time marked the final point in 4-2 loss for Chishko.

But like Dance, Chishko bounced back in the consolation rounds, earning All-America honors for the second straight season. He used two first-period takedowns of Central Michigan’s Justin Oliver to grab the lead and added three more takedowns – and a huge advantage in riding time – to record a 12-2 victory by major decision over Oliver.

Then in the next round, Chishko’s third-period takedown of No. 15 seed Kenny Theobold of Rutgers propelled him to a 7-5 win and into Saturday’s consolation semifinals.

Mastriani was the “feel-good story” for the Hokies, winning three matches in the consolation bracket to earn All-America honors for the first time in his career. He started his morning with a 10-2 major-decision victory over Rutgers’ John Van Brill and then methodically knocked out Purdue’s Alex Griffin by a score of 8-5.

The fifth-year senior and No. 14 seed needed to beat Rider’s Bryant Clagon to become an All-American and did so. He trailed 7-6 late in the third period, but managed to take down Clagon in the final minute and hold on for the 8-7 victory.

“It’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders right now,” Mastriani said. “It’s something I wanted my whole life. I’ve been watching this tournament since elementary school, and I knew this was exactly what I wanted. To achieve that … I’m loving life right now.”

“That guy has come so far over the course of his career,” Robie said. “It just shows what happens when it’s really important to you, and wrestling is important to Sal. Being an All-American was really important to Sal. I couldn’t be prouder and couldn’t be happier for him.”

Mastriani lost to No. 5 seed Joseph Smith of Oklahoma State in the next consolation round and faces unseeded Paul Fox of Stanford in the seventh-place match Saturday morning.

At 174, Zach Epperly, the No. 4 seed, fell behind early in his quarterfinal match against Penn State’s Mark Hall, the No. 5 seed, and couldn’t manufacture any offense. Hall got a takedown, a two-point near fall and a four-point near fall, all in the first period, to take an 8-0 lead. Epperly had a takedown, but nothing else, as Hall combined his first period with a second-period escape and 2:23 in riding time to record a 10-2 win.

In the consolation round, Epperly faced Jake Residori of SIU-Edwardsville and led 3-0 in the second period. In the third, Residori had a takedown and a four-point near fall, and that, combined with riding time, enabled Residori to upset Epperly by a score of 8-3.

Zack Zavatsky, the No. 5 seed at 184 pounds, was the only Tech wrestler eliminated during the morning session. He found himself in a bad position against Gardner-Webb’s Hunter Gamble in a consolation match, and Gamble notched a defensive pin. Zavatsky went 1-2 in the tournament.

Saturday’s action starts at 11 a.m. and can be seen on ESPNU.

VIRGINIA TECH NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RESULTS

125: No. 2 seed Joey Dance (ALL-AMERICAN)

First round: def. Gabe Townsell (Stanford), 17-2 TF (4:20)

Second round: def. Drew Templeman (Wyoming) 12-2 MD

Quarterfinals: lost to No. 10 seed Jack Mueller (Virginia), 4-2 (SV)

Consolation round: def. No. 5 seed Tim Lambert (Nebraska), 3-1 (SV)

Consolation round: def. No. 16 seed Nathan Kraisser (Campbell), 4-2

Consolation semifinals: vs. No. 1 seed Thomas Gilman (Iowa)

149: No. 6 seed Solomon Chishko (ALL-AMERICAN)

First round: def. Coleman Hammond (CSBU), 9-3

Second round: def. Joey Delgado (Oregon State), Fall (2:53)

Quarterfinals: lost to No. 3 seed Lavion Mayes (Missouri), 4-2

Consolation round: def. No. 9 seed Justin Oliver (Central Michigan), 12-2 MD

Consolation round: def. No. 15 seed Kenny Theobold (Rutgers), 7-5

Consolation semifinals: vs. No. 5 seed Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)

157: No. 14 seed Sal Mastriani (ALL-AMERICAN)

First round: def. Casey Sparkman (Kent), 20-5 TF (7:00)

Second round: lost to No. 3 seed Joey Lavallee (Missouri), Fall (7:27)

Consolation round: def. No. 13 seed John Van Brill (Rutgers), 10-2 MD

Consolation round: def. unseeded Alex Griffin (Purdue), 8-5

Consolation round: def. unseeded Bryant Clagon (Rider), 8-7

Consolation quarterfinals: lost to No. 5 seed Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State), 9-3

Seventh-place match: vs. unseeded Paul Fox (Stanford)

174: No. 4 seed Zach Epperly (2-2)

First round: def. Nick Reenan (NC State), 8-1

Second round: def. No. 13 seed Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa), 5-2

Quarterfinals: lost to No. 5 seed Mark Hall (Penn State), 10-2 MD

Consolation round: lost to unseeded Jake Residori (SIU-Edwardsville), 8-3

184: No 5 seed Zack Zavatsky (1-2)

First round: def. Joe Heyob (Penn), 10-5

Second round: lost to No. 12 seed Drew Foster (Northern Iowa), 4-3

Consolation round: lost to unseeded Hunter Gamble (Gardner-Webb), Fall (1:20)

197: No. 4 seed Jared Haught (ALL-AMERICAN)

First round: def. Matt Williams (CSBU), 4-1

Second round: def. Cash Wilke (Iowa), 4-1

Quarterfinals: def. No. 5 seed Matt McCutcheon (Penn State), 7-3

Semifinals: lost to No. 1 seed J’den Cox (Missouri), 6-2

Consolation semifinals: vs. No. 6 seed Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)

Heavyweight: No. 3 seed Ty Walz (ALL-AMERICAN)

First round: def. Benjamin Tynan (NDSU), 11-4

Second round: def. No. 14 Thomas Haines (Lock Haven), 9-5

Quarterfinals: def. unseeded Conan Jennings (Northwestern), 15-4 MD

Semifinals: lost to No. 2 seed Connor Medbery (Wisconsin), 4-3

Consolation semifinals: vs. No. 5 seed Nick Nevills (Penn State)

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