After falling in their first two matches of the season, No. 13 Virginia Tech (5-2) has found itself in a groove heading into an ACC dual next Friday against Pittsburgh. The Hokies have won five consecutive duals, while scoring over 30 points as a team in their last three. All of the right pieces are in the lineup for Tony Robie’s squad as the team gets ready for a tough stretch to the end of February.
This impressive win streak began at Cassell Coliseum last month when the Hokies handled the red-hot Princeton Tigers, a team that was coming off of its biggest win in program history against Lehigh. In that match, the Hokies had four consecutive wins from 157 to 184 to help secure the 24-16 win.
There were two big takeaways from the match against the Tigers. First, it was the wrestling of B.C. LaPrade at 157. The redshirt-sophomore defeated freshman Quincy Monday 5-4 in the second tiebreak period. This would be the beginning of a special month for the New Kent, VA native, who is 6-1 in duals this season.
Secondly, redshirt-senior Billy Miller made his season debut at Heavyweight and tallied a convincing 10-2 win against Kendall Elfstrom. The three-time NCAA qualifier transfer from Edinboro proved his dominance in front of a large crowd at Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech then traveled to West Virginia the next week and enjoyed a comfortable 24-9 win over the Mountaineers. Similar to the Princeton match, the Hokies used the back-end part of their lineup to help defeat their rival. Tech won five consecutive matches from 165 to Heavyweight, including three of those wins by major decision. Redshirt-freshman sensation Mekhi Lewis won in dominant fashion 15-2 over Nick Kiussis at 165. Redshirt-senior Zack Zavatsky made easy work of Hunter DeLong, winning 15-6. LaPrade kept his momentum from the Princeton match and won 14-2.
This past weekend featured the Virginia Duals, held at Hampton Coliseum in the Tidewater region. Tech opened the tournament with Chattanooga, a team the Hokies defeated on the road last season 28-7. With the all-time series tied at eight wins each, Robie’s squad won nine of its 10 matches in a dominant 35-4 win. After dropping the opening match at 125, Tech strung together nine consecutive victories. Freshman Mitch Moore secured a pin just over 90 seconds into the first period, making it his fifth win out of six by pinfall at 141.
In the semifinals, the Hokies defeated in-state foe Old Dominion 31-9. Tech won 8 of its 10 matches, with potentially its biggest individual win of the season coming for B.C. LaPrade at 157, clinching an 8-4 decision against No. 6 Larry Early.
The win over the Monarchs set up a matchup with rival Virginia in the championship. With a title on the line, Tech orchestrated one of its most dominant performances of the season, defeating the Cavaliers 37-5. The last time the Hokies won by 32 points against UVA was in 2004, a 32-0 shutout win. Five of the ten wins in the match included bonus points. It was a big evening for No. 9 Tom Sleigh at 197, defeating #7 Jay Aiello 7-3. Moore clinched an upset at 141 with a win over No. 16 Sam Krivus. This win marked Virginia Tech’s fourth Virginia Duals championship in the last six years.
“It was impressive. We had a lot of matches where we scored bonus points [and] we had pins. That’s been a point of emphasis for us. I think for us to win championships at the ACC level and for us to accomplish our goals in Pittsburgh at the NCAA’s, bonus points are going to be critical,” said Robie to Virginia Tech Wrestling Twitter (@HokiesWrestling) following the win over Virginia.
The Hokies find themselves in a great position moving forward with the lineup healthy and confident. The back-end of the lineup continues to dominate, with each starter being ranked from 165 to Heavyweight. LaPrade and Moore continue to wrestle at a high level for the Hokies.
Looking ahead for the Tech, the schedule ramps up when Pittsburgh comes to Cassell Coliseum next Friday, January 25. The Panthers, ranked 14th in the country, own an 8-0 record and have wins against then-No. 14 Northern Iowa and then- No. 23 North Dakota State. The one common opponent the two teams share is West Virginia, who the Panthers defeated 37-3. The dual begins at 7:00pm and is free admission to the public. It will also be streamed on ACC Network Extra.