Following the final buzzer in his 8-2 decision victory over North Carolina’s No. 21 Joe Heilmann, Virginia Tech wrestler Korbin Myers, No. 5 in the country, took off his headgear, shook hands and walked off the mat. He saluted the crowd and gave a few light taps on his chest before waving one last time towards the stands.
It was the final time the 2021 All-American would walk off the mat in Cassell Coliseum, as many in the crowd gave a standing ovation, signaling appreciation for one of the program’s most accomplished wrestlers.
No. 7 Virginia Tech (8-3, 3-1 ACC) earned its third-straight victory against No. 21 North Carolina (8-5, 3-1) on Friday night, winning 23-11, but the story of the night was the celebration of the careers of a few of the Hokies’ most talented wrestlers.
Virginia Tech held senior night before the match, honoring Myers, Hunter Bolen, Nathan Traxler and Jake Hart.
Myers wasn’t the only senior who ended his Cassell career with a victory, as No. 14 Traxler capped off the night at heavyweight with a 3-1 win over North Carolina’s Brandon Whitman.
With their victories against the Tar Heels, Myers and Traxler have combined for 21 wins since the start of December.
No. 10 Hunter Bolen suffered a rare loss at 184 to conclude his career at Cassell Coliseum, falling in the sudden victory period to North Carolina’s No. 18 Gavin Kane.
Bolen came into the match riding a six-match winning streak and tied the match at 1-1 with 1:45 left in the third period.
Despite having a small bit of momentum, Bolen was immediately overpowered in the extra period, as Kane dove in on a shot and twisted Bolen down for the bout-winning score. Bolen tried to sprawl to avoid the takedown but moved a little bit too late, and Kane was able to snag both of his legs on the shot.
The loss was one of Tech’s three defeats of the night, with No. 22 Collin Gerardi and No. 26 Connor Brady both enduring tough losses to North Carolina’s No. 9 Kizhan Clarke and No. 5 Austin O’Connor.
Gerardi kept the match close against the No. 9 141-pound wrestler in the country, with the score being 2-2 going into the third period.
Clarke started on bottom in the final frame and quickly earned an escape point, then finished off Gerardi with a takedown in the final 25 seconds.
Brady’s match wasn’t much of a fight at all against O’Connor. The No. 5 157-pound wrestler in the nation racked up four takedowns and a reversal in the first two periods to take a 10-3 advantage into the final ten minutes.
O’Connor exploded for 15 points in the last two minutes, earning a 25-10 technical fall over Brady. The loss was Brady’s third straight after starting the season 11-2.
Two Tech wrestlers picked up dominant victories of their own, with No. 5 Bryce Andonian and No. 31 Dakota Howard snagging major decision wins.
At 149, Andonian bursted off the opening whistle against North Carolina’s No. 17 Zach Sherman, getting a takedown and a four-point nearfall in the opening seconds.
The 2021 Junior World Team member only managed to score two points in the second period, but he added an additional six in the final period to eke out the major decision victory, 15-6.
Howard’s match followed Bolen’s upset loss, and with VT needing a win to seal the dual victory, the 197-pound “Junkyard Dog” delivered, injecting a heavy dose of energy back into Cassell with his 13-5 major decision victory over North Carolina’s Mark Chaid.
Howard nabbed five takedowns against Chaid in the win, and celebrated by jumping into the front row with fans.
No. 20 Sam Latona (125 pounds), Clayton Ulrey (165) and No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (174) all earned decision wins on the night.
Latona topped North Carolina’s Spencer Moore, 10-5, Ulrey collected a nice victory against North Carolina’s Isaias Estrada, 4-3, and Lewis secured a stellar win over North Carolina’s No. 9 Clay Lautt, 6-2.
Virginia Tech returns to the mat Friday in Charlottesville at 7 p.m. to take on Virginia (3-5, 0-3). Two days later, the Hokies will travel to Raleigh for their highly-anticipated match against No. 4 N.C. State (11-1, 4-0) at 6 p.m. The match is the rescheduled date after the original Jan. 21 match was canceled, resulting in a VT forfeit.
125: No. 20 Sam Latona (VT) dec. Spencer Moore (UNC), 10-5
133: No. 5 Korbin Myers (VT) dec. No. 21 Joe Heilmann (UNC), 8-2
141: No. 9 Kizhan Clarke (UNC) dec. No. 22 Collin Gerardi (VT), 6-2
149: No. 5 Bryce Andonian (VT) maj dec. No. 17 Zach Sherman (UNC), 15-6
157: No. 5 Austin O’Connor (UNC) tech fall No. 26 Connor Brady (VT), 25-4
165: Clayton Ulrey (VT) dec. Isaias Estrada (UNC), 4-3
174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (VT) dec. No. 9 Clay Lautt (UNC), 6-2
184: No. 18 Gavin Kane (UNC) dec. No. 10 Hunter Bolen (VT), 3-1 (SV)
197: No. 31 Dakota Howard (VT) maj dec. Mark Chaid (UNC), 13-5
285 (HWT): No. 14 Nathan Traxler (VT) dec. Brandon Whitman (UNC), 3-1