Virginia Tech Wrestling 2021-22 Season Preview

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Virginia Tech head coach and Tony Robie open their season on Friday, Nov. 19 vs. No. 9 Ohio State. (Jon Fleming)

No. 7 Virginia Tech kicks off its season with a marquee matchup against No. 9 Ohio State on Friday, November 19. The Hokies enter the 2020-21 season after last year’s campaign in which they went 9-0 and won the ACC regular season title.

Virginia Tech faces a gauntlet of a schedule this year with trips to No. 3 Missouri and No. 5 N.C. State on the docket. Tech also hosts No. 13 North Carolina, in addition to next Saturday’s date with the Buckeyes.

While the Hokies do have their work cut out for them this season, they appear prepared to defend their ACC regular season title with a deep roster of talented wrestlers. 

Here is a breakdown of every weight class, starting at 125 pounds.

Preview of weight classes with projected starter(s) in bold

125: Sam Latona, Cooper Flynn, Caden Hagler, Eddie Ventresca

Sam Latona returns for his sophomore season after emphatically making a name for himself in Blacksburg a year ago, winning the ACC title at 125 pounds and placing sixth nationally at the NCAA tournament. Latona’s freshman campaign was highlighted by his last second takedown against Jakob Camacho to power Virginia Tech over N.C. State, a victory that all-but-secured the ACC regular season title for the Hokies.

Latona’s last-second win over Jakob Camacho of NC State gave the Hokies the ACC regular season title last year. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Latona will play the role of mentor for true freshmen Cooper Flynn, Caden Hagler, and Eddie Ventresca. Flynn joins the Hokies as the No. 22 ranked recruit in the 2021 class. Ventresca’s 2021 season started off on a positive note last week, winning the 125-pound Freshman/Sophomore division at the Southeast Open after going 5-0.

133: Korbin Myers, Jake Keeling, Andrew Wert, Brandon Wittenberg

A fan favorite and one of VT’s most talented wrestlers, Korbin Myers enters the 2021 season coming off a fourth place finish in the NCAA tournament last year. Myers fell to Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, the eventual 133-pound champion, 5-3.

The reigning 133-pound ACC title holder should have that starting spot on lock, and he will act as a great outlet for younger wrestlers Jake Keeling, Andrew Wert, and Brandon Wittenberg. 

141: Sam Hillegas, Collin Gerardi

Sam Hillegas started at 141 pounds last season as a freshman and finished with a 5-5 record, including two falls. He fell in the first round of the ACC tournament and did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Collin Gerardi went 5-1 a year ago backing up Hillegas, including one win at 133 pounds. 

Despite being a year below Gerardi class-wise, I believe Hillegas’ experience starting last year will propel him into the same role for the 2021 season.

149: Bryce Andonian, Ty Finn, Kylan Montgomery, Jackson Spires

Bryce Andonian has quickly become one of the more electric wrestlers on Virginia Tech’s roster. The two-time ACC 149-pound runner-up qualified for his second NCAA tournament in 2020, finishing his run with a 2-2 record. Andonian posted a 7-1 record in the regular season, including two falls.

Andonian will once again represent the Hokies at 149 pounds this season, with a trio of freshmen sitting behind him.

157: Connor Brady, Jake Hart

Connor Brady put up a 7-7 record in his first year starting at 157 pounds and finished the season on a strong note, placing third at the ACC championships.

Brady will most likely be the starter at 157 pounds again, as redshirt junior Jake Hart only wrestled in one match last season.

165: Jordan Florence, Clayton Ulrey

As a result of Mekhi Lewis moving up to 174 pounds this season, the 164 spot is up for grabs between Jordan Florence and Clayton Ulrey. 

Ulrey had a rather impressive freshman season at 157 pounds in 2020, finishing the year with a 6-1 record. His only dual match came against Ohio, where he obliterated Kamal Adewumi 18-2, earning a tech fall. He began his 2022 season with one win and two losses at this year’s Southeast Open.

Florence has had a relatively quiet career with the Hokies, only having wrestled in five matches with one win at the 2019 Southeast open. 

Ulrey will probably get the majority of starts at 165, but the two should each see some time on the mat for VT this season.

Mekhi Lewis is up a weight class from last season, and if he’s fully healthy, he’s going to be hard to stop this year. (Ivan Morozov)

174: Mekhi Lewis, James Brown III, Kolton Clark, AJ Dempsey, Sam Fisher, Brandon Green, Simeone Holmes, Trey Kibe, Harrison Smith

Mekhi Lewis enters the season for the Hokies in the 174-pound weight class, moving up from 165 pounds, the weight class he won the 2019 National Championship in.

Lewis comes into 2021 off of a shoulder injury he suffered against Pittsburgh on Feb. 12 that forced him to medically withdraw from the 2021 NCAA tournament. Prior to the injury, Lewis was looking the part of a national champion, finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record at 165 pounds. 

Lewis leads a group of 174-pounders that has eight underclassmen sitting behind him. Barring any setbacks with his injury, Lewis is a weekly lock in the Hokies starting lineup.

184: Hunter Bolen

One of Tech’s most accomplished wrestlers, Hunter Bolen enters his fourth year as the lone wolf at 184 pounds.

Bolen earned his second All-American title last year after finishing seventh at 184 pounds in the NCAA tournament. The Christiansburg high school alum also finished in the top two at 184 pounds in the ACC tournament for the third season in a row. 

Expect Bolen to continue to establish himself as one of the ACC’s most elite wrestlers this season.

197: Dakota Howard, Andy Smith

The 197-pound weight class features two wrestlers who showed great promise last season. 

Dakota Howard earned an unlikely invite to the NCAA tournament after finishing third in the ACC tournament at 174 pounds. Virginia Tech’s “Junkyard Dog” finished his first year as a starter with a 5-7 regular season record, including an upset decision victory over then No. 9 Devin Cane of North Carolina, 8-7.

Howard has jumped around to different weight classes in his four years at Virginia Tech. In his first season wrestling duals for the Hokies in 2019-20, he wrestled at 184 pounds. Last year, he dropped down to 174. Now, he’s back up to 197 for the start of his redshirt junior season.

Andy Smith was able to get his feet wet last year as a freshman, finishing with a 4-6 regular season record. 

Howard will most likely be given the starting nod at 197, but Smith could be plugged in occasionally as Howard adjusts to the new weight class.

285: Hunter Catka, Nathan Traxler

Hunter Catka exhibited immense potential in 2020, placing second at the ACC championships at 285 pounds and earning an NCAA tournament bid in his freshman year. Catka finished the regular season with a 10-4 record as the starter at 285 last year.

Stanford transfer Nathan Traxler enters the Hokies’ heavyweight room following four seasons in which he qualified for the NCAA tournament. He wrestled at 197 pounds for the Cardinals and won the Pac-12 title in that weight class in 2019. A very experienced and accomplished wrestler, Traxler should be a great resource to the young Catka.

As for who will be the starter at heavyweight, it could be split between the two due to Catka’s promising freshman year and Traxler’s seasoned background.

Virginia Tech finished the 2020-21 season 9-0. Can the Hokies defend their ACC regular season crown and keep the win streak alive? (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Next:

No. 7 Virginia Tech looks to add on to its undefeated regular season from last year and continue its nine-game winning streak this year. The Hokies host No. 9 Ohio State on Friday, November 19 in Cassell Coliseum (7 p.m. ET, ACCNX) before facing Gardner-Webb on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Full schedule: Link

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9 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Great article. Catka will be redshirting at 285. Trax will be the starter, no splitting time unless they have to pull the shirt due to injury or a surprise occurs.

      1. Not real knowledgeable on wrestling but, isn’t a jump from 197 to 285 in 2 years a little unusual. Seems like almost 100 lbs. difference might be a lot for experience to overcome.

        1. Who? Traxler? He is a lighter heavy for sure. And yes a few years back he was 197, but he did great last year at 285 for Stanford. He is ranked lime #16 right now and i would expect him to continue improving this year. Maybe get an outside crack at AA, but certainly some team points at NCAAT.

        2. There’s no 210 class, so if 197 is too small, the next class is 285. Back in my day, this was the unlimited class, now they cap it off at 285.

  2. Awesome dual schedule. Given the recent rankings of our recruiting classes the weakness at some weights is surprising. In any case it’s time for Robie’s teams to reverse the ACC & NCAA tournament downward trend in final placement. Undefeated dual records are nice but it’s all about tournament performance. Beat the damn Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament. This used to be our conference!

  3. A few things otherwise a good article.

    1) Eddie Ventresca should be listed at 125# with Cooper Flynn. Ventresca just beat Flynn in the SE Open so he is just as good if not better then Flynn backing up Latona.
    2) @141#. Gerardi is actually ranked about 20 spots higher than Hillegas on Flo, even though many believe the starting sport is Hillegas’ and this gap is not that wide. I expect this to be a season long battle for representing VT at ACCT and NCAAT.
    3) I think it is a mistake not to mention that Hunter was ranked in the Top 4 and was ACCT Champion going into the NCAAT when it was cancelled due to COVID. He is a returning 2x AA.

    PS. Robie & Co. would like to break the attendAnce record 11/19 versus Ohio State in this #7 vs #9 match-up. This should be mentioned and in BOLD.

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