No. 11 Virginia Tech wrestling improved to 2-0 in dual meets this season with a 21-18 win over No. 21 Northwestern on Sunday afternoon at Atlantic Union Bank Park.
“I knew that it was possible; there were a couple of toss-up matches that I felt like they were slight favorites in,” said Virginia Tech head coach Tony Robie. “You just never know, there’s ten matches.”
The dual meet was the first ever “Mat on the Mound” at Virginia Tech and the first time that the Hokies have wrestled outside in program history. The mat was centered around home plate, putting the crowd of over 2900 people right next to the action.
Despite the match taking placing in mid-November, the weather was perfect for the event with temperatures in the 60’s and sunny skies.
“We got really lucky with the weather, but the event was fantastic,” Robie said. “A lot went into this with a lot of people in terms of planning it and executing it, so there’s a lot of people that deserve the credit for this thing.”
It was a unique environment, but the Hokies were able to stay focused and grab a big win against a ranked opponent. Just last year, the Wildcats beat the Hokies 20-16 in Evanston, IL.
“I was a little concerned about our guys being able to focus on the match, the wrestling and their performance just because it’s different,” Robie said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that for the most part.”
The match came down to the heavyweight match-up, the last of the day. Northwestern led 18-17 entering the heavyweight class, but John Borst’s 9-0 major decision over Jack Heyob put the Hokies over the top.
The event was highlighted by #17 Mitch Moore’s pin in the 141 lb. matchup. Two minutes and thirteen seconds in, Moore earned his second fall of the season in as many matches and added six points to the Hokies’ team score.
“I’ve always been pretty good at pinning and last year it was kind of hard to adjust from high school with no redshirt, but I’m getting to the point where I can wrestle with anybody and put anybody in danger,” Moore said. “I can get people tired, get their head down, put them on their back and finish the match.”
Moore has added those two falls to the ten he had last season as a freshman. He has proven to be a weapon for the Hokies and his contributions are a large reason for the squad’s hot start in 2019.
“He’s a very aggressive kid, he’s incredibly strong and he’s been a pinner his whole life,” Robie said. “The biggest thing Mitch needs to get better with is making adjustments and he did a good job making adjustments today … That was the biggest difference today.”
The crowd roared after Moore’s pin and he soaked it all in. His celebration was fitting for the moment as he grabbed an imaginary bat and swung for the fences, giving a signature moment to the first ever “Mat on the Mound.”
“It just kind of felt right honestly,” Moore said. “It was fitting for the environment, so I figured, why not?”
This year was seen as a possible re-tooling year for Virginia Tech after losing many key wrestlers. Most notably, national champion Mekhi Lewis is taking an Olympic redshirt and isn’t wrestling this season. However, wrestlers have stepped up early in the season, including #4-ranked David McFadden, who has dropped down from 174 lbs. to Lewis’s old spot at 165 lbs. and earned two major decisions.
“My preparation has been really good; I’m trying to do something special here,” McFadden said. “Any time you take a national champ out of the lineup, it hurts, so I’m trying to accomplish my own goals.”
Despite the two wins, the Hokies still have work to do. There are still wrestlers who have been put into large roles that haven’t quite done enough through two matches. This includes Brent Moore who was ranked 23rd in the 149 lb. class entering the season. Today, he lost 12-2 and gave up four team points to Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas.
“We still have a lot of question marks,” Robie said. “At 149, we have to get that figured out because the performance I saw today was not acceptable, so we either have to have changes there or we’re going to make changes.”
The Hokies have knocked off two ranked teams in as many dual meets including a win over then 9th-ranked Missouri last weekend. However, their biggest test of the season will come next Sunday when they travel to Columbus, OH to face the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes.
“It’ll be a much stiffer challenge next weekend,” Robie said. “They’ve got a great team and some great individuals.”
The Hokies have to be pleased with their performance so far, having two impressive wins to start the season. However, the tests will only continue throughout the season starting with the Buckeyes and running through the ACC season.
“I always kind of think about where we need work, but I feel good about 165 (McFadden) and 184 (10th-ranked Hunter Bolen), and I feel good about how we progressed a lot at 197 (Stanley Smeltzer) from this week to last week,” Robie said. “We’ll know a lot more about our team as the season rolls along.”
Virginia Tech Wrestling-Northwestern Box Score
No. 11 Virginia Tech 21, No. 21 Northwestern 18
125: Joey Prata (VT) dec. Mike DeAugustino, 2-0
133: No. 3 Sebastian Rivera (125) MD No. 15 Collin Gerardi (VT), 13-4
141: No. 17 Mitch Moore (VT) WBF Jack Tolin, 2:13
149: Yahya Thomas MD Brent Moore (VT), 12-2
157: No. 3 Ryan Deakin MD No. 18 BC LaPrade (VT), 12-3
165: No. 4 David McFadden (VT) MD Shayne Oster, 18-6
174: Tyler Morland dec. Cody Hughes (VT), 6-1
184: No. 10 Hunter Bolen (VT) MD Jack Jessen, 14-3
197: Lucas Davison dec. Stanley Smeltzer (VT), 5-3
285: John Borst (VT) MD Jack Heyob, 9-0