Call it a tune-up, a get-right match or even just a win, but No. 8 Virginia Tech’s victory over No. 19 Pittsburgh 24-12 to kick off ACC play came at just the right time.
Following last week’s disappointing forfeit to No. 4 NC State, the Hokies (6-3, 1-1 ACC) needed some good fortune to help keep their minds and bodies in good shape as they look towards March. Sunday’s victory provided just that.
While the overall win symbolized the team’s collective resiliency, a few Tech wrestlers made strides of their own against Pitt (6-4, 1-1), including No. 21 Sam Latona.
Latona kicked off the day with a match against Pittsburgh’s No. 31 Gage Curry at 125 pounds, looking for his first ranked victory in his redshirt-sophomore season. Down 2-0 early, Latona kicked it into high gear and escaped Curry, then immediately went in on a single leg to take a 3-2 lead into the second.
The Alabama native added an escape point and another for riding time to lock up the 5-3 victory. The victory gives Latona a three-match winning streak to begin 2022 after starting the season 4-6.
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The win was impressive in its own right, but No. 5 Korbin Myers had the victory of the day against No. 7 Micky Phillippi at 133 pounds.
In their sixth collegiate meeting, Phillippi took the early lead over Myers, grabbing an escape point in the second period. Myers took bottom to begin the third, meaning he needed to get an escape to get back in the match, and quickly enough so that Phillippi didn’t get a riding point.
Myers kept fighting to escape in the third period, despite his chances of victory looking slimmer and slimmer with every passing second. Then, with 75 seconds left in the match, Phillippi was penalized for an illegal mat return. Suddenly, the score was tied at one, and Myers was right back in it.
The graduate student, only having 45 seconds to make something happen, performed a sit out immediately after a mat return and notched an escape point to take the lead. Myers was able to shutout Phillippi from that point on, earning his 12th win of the year.
The Hokies’ only wrestler ranked higher than Myers, No. 3 Mekhi Lewis, added to his undefeated record with a technical fall win against Pittsburgh’s James Lledo at 174 pounds, 23-5.
Lewis’ dominant outing included seven takedowns and six near fall points, as well as a point for riding time. The win is No. 14 for Lewis’ on the year and his fourth via technical fall. His victory also gave the Hokies back the lead after the match was tied 9-9, and Tech led for the remainder of the day.
Sam Hillegas picked up an impressive 5-2 decision victory over Pittsburgh’s Luke Kemerer at 149 pounds, one weight class above what he normally wrestles.
The only other victors for VT were No. 12 Hunter Bolen (184) and No. 14 Nathan Traxler (HWT). Bolen won via pin, while Traxler’s match was a major decision.
Virginia Tech will look to continue its winning streak on Friday as it hosts Duke (6-7, 0-2) at 7 p.m. The match will be televised on the ACC Network.
125: No. 21 Sam Latona (VT) dec. No. 31 Gage Curry (PITT), 5-3
133: No. 5 Korbin Myers (VT) dec. No. 7 Micky Phillippi (PITT), 2-1
141: No. 18 Cole Matthews (PITT) dec. Collin Gerardi (VT), 8-2
149: Sam Hillegas (VT) dec. Luke Kemerer (PITT), 5-2
157: No. 21 Elijah Cleary (PITT) dec. No. 23 Connor Brady (VT), 5-1 (SV1)
165: No. 14 Jake Wentzel (PITT) dec. Clayton Ulrey (VT), 5-1
174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (VT) tech fall James Lledo (PITT), 23-5 (7:00)
184: No. 12 Hunter Bolen (VT) pins No. 32 Gregg Harvey (PITT), 1:33
197: No. 8 Nino Bonaccorsi (PITT) dec. No. 33 Dakota Howard (VT), 6-1
285 (HWT): No. 14 Nathan Traxler (VT) maj dec. Jake Slinger (PITT), 12-0