After winning the first four matches of the night by decision, Virginia Tech had built its lead up to 12-0 to start things off against Virginia.
It looked as though the No. 7 Hokies would run away with the match, but then the Cavaliers started to fire back.
First, No. 26 Connor Brady was taken down at the hands of Virginia’s No. 28 Jake Keeting, 5-3, Brady’s fourth-straight loss since starting the season 11-2.
Next, it was Clayton Ulrey, who gave a valiant effort against Virginia’s No. 15 Justin McCoy but couldn’t get the job done, losing 6-2.
Suddenly it was a one score match with only four bouts left to wrestle, and the Hokies needed a spark.
Enter No. 3 Mekhi Lewis.
He lightly jogged in place, stared his opponent down, shook hands and got to work.
A takedown in the first 25 seconds helped the former national champion out to a 4-1 lead at the end of the first. Lewis rode that early momentum to a dominant 17-6 victory, extending his season record to a perfect 17-0.
The major decision win propelled the Hokies to a 10-point lead with three matches left to wrestle, playing a sizable role in No. 7 Virginia Tech’s win over Virginia in the Commonwealth Clash Friday night, 20-15.
Despite winning six of the 10 bouts, Virginia Tech (9-3, 4-1 ACC) was overwhelmed in a few matches.
No. 30 Dakota Howard suffered his first defeat by fall of the season to Virginia’s No. 13 Jay Aiello and No. 14 Nathan Traxler was handed his first loss since November against Ohio State.
The two uncharacteristic defeats brought the Cavaliers (4-6, 1-4) within five once the final buzzer sounded.
The first four Hokies to wrestle in the match did their jobs and more, picking up two ranked victories in the process, highlighted by No. Bryce Andonian.
The junior came out on top in a wild bout against Virginia’s No. 29 Jarod Verkleeren, 5-4. Scoreless heading into the third period, Andonian quickly snagged two escapes and a takedown to earn a 4-2 lead with 17 seconds left.
However, a late unnecessary roughness call on an Andonian takedown outside of the circle after the whistle, accompanied by an escape from the Virginia wrestler in the final seconds, tied the match at four at the end of regulation.
Luckily for Andonian, he had secured the riding time point 53 seconds earlier, awarding him the narrow victory.
No. 5 Korbin Myers pushed his season record to 15-1 and extended his win streak to seven with a solid victory over Virginia’s No. 23 Brian Courtney.
No. 20 Sam Latona and No. 22 Collin Gerardi helped the Hokies’ cause, both winning by decision and defeating their opponents by a combined score of 14-6.
Latona hasn’t lost in the new year and is riding a six-match winning streak after a rocky start to the season. Gerardi’s win is a nice bounce-back from his 6-2 loss to UNC’s No. 7 Kizhan Clark.
No. 14 Hunter Bolen grabbed the last VT bout victory of the night to extend his season record to 19-3 on the year, beating down Virginia’s No. 22 Michael Battista by major decision, 13-3.
Virginia Tech now turns its attention to Sunday, where the Hokies will battle No. 4 N.C. State (12-1, 5-0) at 6 p.m. in Raleigh.
The match was originally scheduled for January 21, but was canceled due to multiple VT athletes being unable to compete. It resulted in a forfeit loss for the Hokies in the ACC standings, and the make-up match counts to the non-conference.
Sunday’s dual will be televised on ACC Network.
125: No. 20 Sam Latona (VT) dec. Patrick McCormick (UVA), 8-4
133: No. 5 Korbin Myers (VT) dec. No. 23 Brian Courtney (UVA), 8-3
141: No. 22 Collin Gerardi (VT) dec. Dylan Cedeno (UVA), 6-2
149: No. 5 Bryce Andonian (VT) dec. No. 29 Jarod Verkleeren (UVA), 5-4
157: No. 28 Jake Keating (UVA) dec. No. 26 Connor Brady (VT), 5-3
165: No. 15 Justin McCoy (UVA) dec. Clayton Ulrey (VT), 6-2
174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (VT) maj dec. Justin Phillips (UVA), 17-6
184: No. 14 Hunter Bolen (VT)) maj dec. No. 22 Michael Battista (UVA), 13-3
197: No. 13 Jay Aiello (UVA) win by fall No. 30 Dakota Howard (VT), 5:32
285 (HWT): No. 32 Quinn Miller (UVA) dec. No. 14 Nathan Traxler (VT), 4-3