Virginia Tech Wrestling Begins This Weekend
Welcome to the 2016-17 wrestling season Hokie wrestling fans! In a change from last year, I’m trying to present a more article style breakdown of each weekend in the season. I’m happy to talk predictions and nitty gritty in the forum, but these articles will be focused on what to watch for and expect. With that in mind, the Hokies have four events this opening weekend, a home dual with Edinboro, a home dual with VMI, Ty Walz on the road in Cleveland at the NWCA All Star Classic and The Southeast Open. Let’s dive in.
#7 Virginia Tech vs. #21 Edinboro,
Streamed on HOKIEVISION
The Hokies begin the new wrestling season with a critical non-conference match. Edinboro comes to town with the talent to pose a stiff test for the 2016-17 Hokies. For those new to the sport, the Fighting Scots are a wrestling powerhouse in spite of their lack of name recognition. The have that late 80s VT/mid 2000s Boise State football feel, where they take good technical Pennsylvania wrestlers overlooked by the traditional powers and methodically turn them into well-oiled, top-wrestling machines. The Hokies have enjoyed quite a bit of coaching cross pollination, as current assistant coach Tony Robie as well as former graduate assistant Eric Morrill both wrestled for Edinboro.
Of late the Scots, led by coach Tim Flynn, have been fantastic top wrestlers, putting the screws to wrestlers who don’t put forth effort to quickly escape from the bottom position. They had a mature team in 2015 that, like the Hokies last season, reached the NCAA podium for the first time ever. The core members of that run have moved on and are coaching across the US, which is a testament to their skill. The new version of those Fighting Scots still embody many of the same principles, and have the talent to make the contest interesting and even dangerous given Ty Walz’s absence. Last season’s result was a 29-7 victory for the Hokies, but as covered below, the Fighting Scots chose to redshirt a portion of their newly recruited talent. With that in mind, let’s break down the key matchups and potential storylines and wrap it up with a general prediction.
Projected lineups (Intermat/Flowrestling):
125: #3/#3 Joey Dance (VT) vs. #18/#17 Sean Russell (ED)
133: Dom Latona (VT) vs. Korbin Myers (ED)
141: Dennis Gustafson (VT) vs. Tyler Vath (ED)
149: #7/#7 Solomon Chishko (VT) vs. #10/#11 Patricio Lugo (ED)
157: Sal Mastriani (VT) vs. Chase Delande (ED)
165: Ryan Blees OR David Bergida OR Mike Ciavarro (VT) vs. #9/#9 Austin Matthews (ED)
174: #2/#2 Zack Epperly (VT) vs. Ty Schoffstall (ED)
184: #10/#9Zach Zavatsky (VT) vs. Dakota Geer (ED)
197: #3/#3 Jared Haught (VT) vs. Shaw Reynolds OR Gordon Truesdale (ED)
285: Anthony Helm OR Cody Amos OR Dylan Cook (VT) vs. #16/#15 Billy Miller (ED)
Key Matchups to Watch
149 Patricio Lugo VS. Solomon Chishko
One of two weights the Hokies dropped last season, Patricio Lugo defeated Sal Mastriani 6-4. Mastriani struggled with nagging health issues and consistency and in hindsight this match was a warning that Sal was struggling. A year later and invigorated by new competition, the Hokies will look for a flip of the result. Lugo, however, built upon mid season successes and had an impressive run at the NCAA tourney, falling just short of All-American status in the round of 12 (aka the Bloodround.) One thing about Lugo, he seems to improve the second time around against opponents. Solomon will have to be sharp here.
165 Austin Matthews VS. Mike Ciavarro OR Ryan Blees OR David Bergida
Austin Matthews is the anchor of this Edinboro team and the Hokies will really have to impress to pick up a victory here. Matthews is the one remaining member of the 2015 tournament team that reached the podium. There will be uncertainty around the projected starter for the Hokies, as competition has been very fierce and even between our group of six at 157 and 165 this summer in the room. A win here for the Hokies would be a quality upset.
133 Korbin Myers VS. Dom Latona
You never know what you’re going to get when a true freshman steps on the mat, but Dom Latona showed up in a big way at the intrasquad scrimmage. Dresser has been incredibly positive about the late bloomer out of Alabama, and with our glaring gap at 133, this is an opportunity for the freshman to seize control of his season. In contrast, Myers is a super freshman for Edinboro. Having unseated the starter, he looks to make his first run at an NCAA bid. No idea what to expect here!
Youth Vs. Talent Development
Edinboro was very young last year and chose to redshirt quite a bit of talent. The Hokies can expect Edinboro to start multiple freshmen. In contrast, the Hokies are maturing into an experienced team. As it stands, the Hokies have just one freshman (Dom Latona) in their starting lineup and on paper that experience should lend itself to a positive result. Look for freshmen to start at 133 (Korbin Myers) and 184 (Dakota Geer) at a bare minimum for the Fighting Scots. Last season we saw a furious comeback from then true freshman David McFadden; can we expect similar drama this year?
The Hokies take seven of 10 weights and look good en route to their first victory of the season. Look to see how starters adjust to their first true weigh in of the year, especially with a dual two hours after this contest.
#7 Virginia Tech vs. VMI
Streamed on HOKIEVISION
The back-to-back duals provide a real wake up call for the Hokies to open the season. Provided the first dual falls in the Hokies’ favor, the second one will demonstrate the conditioning and weight management of the team. I also expect it to be an opportunity to gauge potential backups and guys competing for starting spots. Let’s look at the potential lineups.
Projected Lineups (Intermat/Flowrestling):
125: Joey Dance(VT) vs. Dalton Henderson (VMI)
133: Dom Latona (VT) vs. Hunter Starner (VMI)
141: Dennis Gustafson (VT) vs. Darren Ostrander (VMI)
149: Solomon Chishko (VT) vs. Stevan Smith (VMI)
157: Sal Mastriani (VT) vs. #19/NR Neal Richards (VMI)
165: Ryan Blees OR David Bergida OR Mike Ciavarro (VT) vs. Shabaka Johns (VMI)
174: Zack Epperly (VT) vs. Calvin Lawson (VMI)
184: Zach Zavatsky (VT) vs. Thomas Taylor (VMI)
197: Jared Haught (VT) vs. Jake Tomlinson (VMI)
285: Anthony Helm OR Cody Amos OR Dylan Cook (VT) vs. Sam Bouis (VMI)
Key Matchups to Watch
157 Neal Richards VS. Sal Mastriani
Neal Richards was a prospect I thought (and perhaps wished) VT might have pursued. A Virginia native from the Tidewater, Neal was a dominant VHSL wrestler. VMI seems to have been a better all around fit, and last season Neal qualified as a true freshman for the NCAA tourney, their first qualifier in five years. Neal has very good “feel” and is a tough out for Sal Mastriani. This is one of two toss ups for the Hokies.
165 Shabaka Johns VS. Ryan Blees OR David Bergida OR Mike Ciavarro
Johns is another Virginia native, lending some evidence to the development of youth wrestling in the state. Last season he just missed a bid to the tourney at 165, and as a senior will be seeking that accomplishment this year. The dual should be at worst 3-2 in terms of matches at this point, and I fully expect Coach Dresser may experiment with starters here, dependent on the result of the Edinboro/Matthews match two hours earlier.
VT rolls in this match, going 9-1 in matches with bonus in practically every weight class.
2016 NWCA All Star Classic
Streamed on TrackWrestling ($9.99)
In the wrestling world, the NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) All Star Classic is the premier preseason college showcase. The top two wrestlers in the country are invited to compete and the event goes down the rankings until two wrestlers accept. With his Rio heroics, Kyle Snyder was previously occupied, allowing a #2 VS. #3 match between Ty Walz and Connor Medbery of Wisconsin. This is Walz’s second time at the event, appearing last season on his way to a victory over Adam Coon of Michigan. For the redshirt-senior, this should be an extra sweet kickoff to his swan song, as he returns to his hometown of Cleveland to perform in front of a very large contingent of friends and family.
His Opponent, Medbery, is a familiar foe. The two most recently met at the 2014 Midlands Classic, where Walz dropped a tight 2-1 decision in the third place match, keeping Ty from the podium. Medbery took an Olympic redshirt last season, and it will be interesting to gauge where he’s improved. On the Hokies’ side of the house, Ty Walz has trained like a man possessed this summer. His recent visit to the National Olympic Training Center in Colorado underscores his development and his dedication this offseason. Expect this to be a very high paced match, likely decided on a wild scramble in the third. Give me Walz here 5-4 (unless they are employing experimental rules this year, in which case I have Walz by a TD)
2016 Southeast Open
Berglund Center, Roanoke, VA
Converage on http://www.southeastopenwrestling.com/home.html
Streamed on FLOWRESTLING
The Hokie Open has gotten too big for Blacksburg, and in response a name and location change led to the new Southeast Open. Hosted on Sunday in the Berglund Center, the tournament has over 600 registered wrestlers thus far. VT currently has the following wrestlers registered:
Joey Prata, 125, F/S Division
Brent Moore, 141, F/S Division
Brendan Ryan, 141, F/S Division
Austin Lamrouex, 141, F/S Division
Mattheos Lozier, 149, Open Division
Jarrett Degen , 149, F/S Division
Ryan Blees, 157, Open Division
Derek Ciavarro, 157, F/S Division
Kayleb Forsythe, 157, F/S Division
David Bergida, 165, Open Division
Cody Hughes, 174, F/S Division
Brooks Wilding, 174, F/S Division
TJ Allen, 184, F/S Division
Dylan Cook, 197, F/S Division
- Jarrett Degen may finally be filling out his 6’3” frame. Over the summer he was making the 141 lb weight cut, but the VT Dining Halls may have taken effect (or the weightlifting program, too). Ultimately I expected Jarrett to settle at 149, so if this season is one for muscle building, so be it.
- Cody Hughes remains in the F/S Division. I really felt Cody was a very talented true freshman last season and had hoped he would continue to progress. On paper he seems to be the next man up at 174 or 184 should something go wrong. I’m wondering why he’s not at the Open level
- Dresser is smart getting Bergida and Blees matches should they not start. I’d like to see Laprade and Ciavarro added. Whomever comes out on top of the dog pile may have a low number of matches, and it’s critical they fit as many in as possible for NCAA tournament bids.
- The Southeast Open has really become a premier event. With the number of entries, and the attractiveness of a Freshman/Sophomore Division, expect this event to continue to hold major national sway, not just in the southeast.a