Looking to avenge two straight losses to No. 14 North Carolina, No. 8 Virginia Tech Wrestling did everything right on Saturday and left Chapel Hill with a stout 23-9 win.
This one should have been close, but it wasn’t. The Hokies opened with two major decisions to take an 8-0 lead, won every match they were favored in, and got an unexpected upset from 174-pound wrestler Dakota Howard in the feel-good story of the day.
The previous evening, Virginia Tech had wrestled five backup wrestlers in a dominant 42-3 win over Duke, while UNC had wrestled nearly all of their frontline guys against No. 3 NC State in a 28-10 loss. Wrestling on consecutive days is common, but still, the setup was favorable for the Hokies, and they dominated North Carolina.
The only note of concern for Virginia Tech on the day was a narrow 4-3 win by No. 1 Mekhi Lewis over No. 8 Kennedy Monday. With 22 seconds left in the match, Lewis gave up his first takedown since his first college match in the fall of 2018, but he scored an escape with 15 seconds left to break a 3-3 tie for the win.
It was a good day for the Hokies. Here’s how it went:
125 pounds: No. 8 Sam Latona of Virginia Tech posted an 18-7 major decision over unranked Wil Guida. This one was never in doubt. Latona led 8-4 after two periods, then blew Guida out in the third, including two+ minutes of riding time. Virginia Tech 4, UNC 0.
133 pounds: If Dakota Howard hadn’t registered such a big upset, this is the match everyone would be talking about. No. 8 Korbin Myers of Virginia Tech faced off against No. 11 Jaime Hernandez of UNC, and a matchup that was expected to be close … wasn’t. Myers jumped on Hernandez early, taking a 6-0 lead after one period that included a 4-point near fall. Myers was up 9-0 after two periods and registered an 11-2 major decision that included riding time. Myers made his case for continuing to move up the national rankings. Virginia Tech 8, UNC 0.
141 pounds: Unranked Tech freshman Sam Hillegas faced a big challenge in No. 10 Zach Sherman, and Hillegas took Sherman to overtime knotted at 6-6. Sherman ended things quickly with a takedown and a near-fall to win 12-6, but Hillegas represented well. Virginia Tech 8, UNC 3.
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149 pounds: No. 12 Bryce Andonian took on No. 1 Austin O’Connor of UNC. O’Connor is extremely tough, and it was all Andonian could do to hold off a major decision (an 8-point loss), losing to O’Connor 11-4. Virginia Tech 8, UNC 6.
From that point on, it was almost all Hokies.
157 pounds: Connor Brady of VT defeated Josh McClure, pulling away late with a takedown and riding time for a 6-1 win. Virginia Tech 11, UNC 6.
165 pounds: No. 1 Mekhi Lewis led No. 8 Kennedy Monday 3-0 after two periods, but the third got dicey. Monday scored an escape to make it 3-1, then took down Lewis with 22 seconds left to tie it at three points. Lewis scored an escape point with 15 seconds to go to make it 4-3, then finished out for the win. Virginia Tech 14, UNC 6.
174 pounds: For Virginia Tech fans, this was no doubt the match of the day. Winless Dakota Howard stepped out on the mat to wrestle No. 9 Devin Kane. A major decision for Kane was expected, but Howard had other ideas.
Kane led by as much as 5-1, but late in the second, Howard got a takedown to close it to 5-4. In the third period, Howard got another takedown to pull ahead 6-5, then gave up an escape to tie it at 6-6. With Kane securing riding time, Howard needed a takedown to win, and with 35 seconds left, he got it, going ahead 8-6. Howard held on, and even with Kane’s riding time added on, Howard had a huge 8-7 upset. Virginia Tech 17, UNC 6.
Late takedown off the scramble seals the top-10 upset for @DakotaHowardcod ‼️
— Virginia Tech Wrestling (@HokiesWrestling) January 30, 2021
184 pounds: No. 2 Hunter Bolen made short work of No. 15 Clay Lautt, registering three first-period takedowns to go up 6-2. Bolen eventually won 8-3. Virginia Tech 20, UNC 6.
197 pounds: Andy Smith of Virginia Tech trailed Max Shaw of UNC the whole way, and Shaw inadvertently kicked Smith in the jaw late in the second period. The match was halted and Smith was put through concussion protocol, with Shaw leading 5-1. Smith returned to get a takedown, but in the third, Shaw closed him out and won 9-5. Virginia Tech 20, UNC 9.
Heavyweight: In a low-scoring match, No. 15 John Borst of Virginia Tech got a takedown with 25 seconds left to win 3-1. FINAL: Virginia Tech 23, UNC 9.
With the win, Virginia Tech moves to 7-0 on the season, 3-0 in ACC dual meets. Up next for the Hokies is No. 3 NC State at 8 PM Friday, February 5, in Cassell Coliseum on the ACC Network.
Note: the first version of this article incorrectly stated that Howard had lost at Duke on Friday night, and that Hillegas lost 10-6.