In one of the more highly anticipated wrestling matches of the year, No. 10 Virginia Tech (11-2) defeated No. 9 Lehigh (9-3) Friday night before 2,947 strong at Cassell Coliseum, 20-17.
“I think overall I just like the fact that our guys went out and wrestled hard for the most part,” said Head Coach Tony Robie. “I felt like there were a lot of matches that we won at the end and we won on hustle and we won on effort and we won on toughness. That’s what we’re looking for ultimately. If you can take that approach into every time you step on the mat and compete, you’re going to have a lot of success in this sport. That’s the one thing we demand from our guys and I thought they brought it tonight in that area.”
The Hokies started the night having to crawl out of a 6-0 hole after the 125 match was forfeited to Lehigh’s Darian Cruz, the defending National Champion at the 125. Redshirt freshman Kyle Norstrem was expected to take the mat, but he sustained an injury in warmups and couldn’t compete.
“He got hurt in our warmups,” Robie said. “I hate to do that. I hate forfeiting matches at any point, so hopefully he gets healthy soon and it’s not an issue.”
Dennis Gustafson got the crowd to its feet in the 133. It was tied 2-2 going into the third period, and Gustafson started on top and didn’t let Lehigh’s Nick Farro escape the entire period. Gustafson earned the riding time point to capture the decision. Gustafson’s matchup set the tone for the rest of the match, as the Hokies put an emphasis on trying to garner those riding time points throughout.
“Every time we step on the mat and we’re in the top position we want to be able to stay in the top position,” Robie said. “It’s effective for a lot of different reasons. You get your opponent tired and you wear them out. Obviously you can build time and get a point. You don’t give up a big escape point. That over the course of a seven minute match is really important to be able to maintain top position.”
At 141, No. 13 Luke Karam picked up a 4-0 decision over Virginia Tech’s Brent Moore, 4-0. The Hokies trailed 9-3 at that point and needed some unheralded heroes to rise to the occasion. Robie and Co. got exactly that from Ryan Blees in the 149 and B.C. LaPrade in the 157.
Blees dominated his match from start to finish against Lehigh’s Jonathan Mele, picking up an extra point in the 14-6 major decision. In fact, Blees has excelled since dropping down from the 157 weight class to the 149 in place of the injured Solomon Chishko. The Oklahoma State transfer is 16-5 this year, but only one of those losses has come in the 149 class.
“The cut wasn’t overly hard,” Blees said. “I just did it right and it was an opportunity for me more than anything. I just took full advantage of it basically. I’m just rolling with it and having as much fun as I can. Pouring all of me into it and letting me rock.
“More than anything I think I’m just letting the motivation of cutting a little extra more weight and maybe let it emotionally show through my wrestling more. I have to put in more hard work in more workouts, so I’m letting it show that it means more to me, trying to let it fly and really let loose.”
LaPrade pulled out the most thrilling victory of the night in the 3-2 decision over Ian Brown in the second tiebreaker. LaPrade was down 2-1 at the end of the first tiebreaker, but Brown was called for stalling in the final seconds to send the match into a second tiebreaker. LaPrade started on the bottom and escaped to collect a point and earn the decision.
“I was thinking I need to get a shot, I need to get a takedown. I need to score points,” LaPrade said. “Coach Robie was telling me all heart, so I needed to get it done.”
“B.C. LaPrade, really pleased with his effort,” Robie said. “He pretty much dominated the match in terms of attacks and the positions and the overall effort. He didn’t really dominate on the scoreboard. I think if he can finish a few more takedowns, B.C. LaPrade has a chance to be really, really good. His wrestling has come a long way. He’s lost a couple matches like that this year, so I’m glad that he was able to come out on top and get his hand raised.”
Following the key victories from Blees and LaPrade, Virginia Tech cruised to the win after intermission behind three of their ranked wrestlers down the stretch. No. 4 David McFadden, No. 8 Zack Zavatsky, and No. 2 Jared Haught sealed the deal over a tough Lehigh wrestling squad.
Virginia Tech finishes the regular season with four ACC matchups (Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and NC State) before heading into postseason play. The Hokies still have a few things to brush up on before the real grind begins.
“I think we have to make sure we’re peaking at the right time of the year,” Robie said. We have to make sure we’re healthy. That’s going to be critically important to our success. At this point of the season, it’s about evaluating guys individually and getting better in the areas they need to improve.”
125: #2 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) For. (VT)
133: #17 Dennis Gustafson (VT) dec. Nick Farro (Lehigh), 3-2
141: #13 Luke Karam (Lehigh) dec. Brent Moore (VT), 4-0
149: Ryan Blees (VT) MD Jonathan Mele (Lehigh), 14-6
157: BC. LaPrade (VT) dec. Ian Brown (Lehigh), 3-2 (TB-2)
165: #4 David McFadden (VT) dec. #20 Gordon Wolf (Lehigh), 9-2
174: #5 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) TF Cody Hughes (VT), 24-9
184: #8 Zack Zavatsky (VT) MD Dylan Ammerman (Lehigh), 10-1
197: #2 Jared Haught (VT) dec. Chris Weiler (Lehigh), 7-6
285: #12 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) dec. #18 Andrew Dunn (VT), 4-0
- Solomon Chishko is competing at the Appalachian State open while he still recovers from an injury: “He’s going to be wrestling tomorrow at the Appalachian State open,” Robie said. “He’s coming back and I’ve been pleased with how he looks in the wrestling room. He’s done a really really good job the last month or so, just taking some time to get him back to where he needs to be to compete. Excited to watch his results tomorrow and how he does.”
- Virginia Tech assistant coach Frank Molinaro competed in the Ivan Yarygin tournament in Russia and earned a bronze medal in the 70 kg weight class.
- Volunteer assistant coach and former All-American in the 285, Ty Walz proposed to his girlfriend Friday night during intermission of the match. Congrats to the couple!