Young Stars Shine In Intrasquad Match For No. 15 Virginia Tech Wrestling

Tony Robie and Virginia Tech had the opportunity to see freshmen prove themselves on Saturday. (Ivan Morozov)

Intrasquad matches are all about seeing what you have in certain wrestlers. On Saturday afternoon, No. 15 Virginia Tech found out just how bright the future of the program might be.

“I think this time of year it’s really important to get out there and compete,” head coach Tony Robie said following the match in Cassell Coliseum. “It’s just different. Competition and practice are two different animals, so to have that opportunity to get out there and compete in front of fans in a non-simulated environment and the real deal, I think it matters a lot. 

“I think it’s helpful for the guys in terms of their routine, their preparation, making weight, just going through that whole process, and getting it under your belt one time is important, especially for the young guys.”

A pair of true freshmen — Tom Crook and Caleb Henson — headlined the scrimmage with impressive wins over upperclassmen.

The 141-pound Crook, who finished his high school career with an undefeated record, continued his winning streak against fifth-year senior Collin Gerardi, 7-4. Crook finished the match with 2:17 in riding time.

“I think for me, [the scrimmage match] builds a lot of confidence coming in as a true freshman,” Crook said. “Just being one of the guys, being a college guy, feeling my team behind me and my coaches behind me, it feels really [good].”

Collin Gerardi started every match for Virginia Tech in 2021-22. (Ivan Morozov)

Crook’s win is particularly remarkable considering Gerardi started every dual at 141 pounds last year for the Hokies. While Robie said on the Tech Sideline Podcast in April that Gerardi will most likely be the starter again this season, Crook’s victory could loosen his hold on the starting spot.

“I thought Tom Crook looked fantastic going out there against Collin Gerardi, who’s in his fifth year and has wrestled a lot of Division I college matches,” Robie said. [He] did a lot of good things, was very offensive, kept his foot on the gas [and was] really good in every position.”

At 149 pounds, Henson looked particularly dominant against sophomore Kylan Montgomery, winning by major decision, 12-1, with 2:38 in riding time.

“It was awesome,” Henson said after the match. “All the training you do comes for competition, it’s for a reason, so let it fly out there.”

Henson looked especially comfortable in his first collegiate action, which will be important as he looks to replace Bryce Andonian at 149 pounds this season.

Commanding performances from two of the youngest wrestlers on the Virginia Tech roster give reason to believe that the program will stay at an elite level for years to come. 

“[They] scored a lot of points,” Robie said of Crook and Flynn’s performances. “We want guys to go out and score points and attack.

“At the end of the day, that’s the style of wrestling that’s really going to help you win at the elite level when you get to the NCAA tournament. If you want to win titles and you want to be an All-American, that’s kind of what you have to do.”

While Crook and Henson opened their Cassell Coliseum careers with sizable wins, some of VT’s other young grapplers can look at Saturday as more of a learning experience.

TJ Stewart, another highly-touted freshman at 197 pounds, fell to junior Andy Smith, 8-2. Stewart’s inclusion in the scrimmage proved the coaching staff’s belief in the freshman, but the loss gave him something to learn from as he develops.

“Just enjoy the process,” Stewart said about what he learned from Saturday’s scrimmage. “Trying to be able to wrestle to the best of my ability and trust in the process.”

Stewart could still be in the mix to start at 197 pounds. As of three weeks ago, that was one of the three weight classes still without a projected starter for Virginia Tech.

Another one of those spots is at 125 pounds where redshirt-freshmen Eddie Ventresca and Cooper Flynn have been battling for the starting spot. 

Neither wrestler seemed to distance themselves in the race Saturday as one of the two matches between the two ended in a 1-1 tie after 17 minutes. It was declared a draw after no points were scored in the 10 minutes into extra period. Ventresca narrowly won their first match of the day, snagging the 3-1 win in a sudden victory situation.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit disappointing that [Ventresca and Flynn] don’t go out there and try to take the win a little more,” Robie said. “I’d like to see those guys be more aggressive. Obviously, they’re close, there’s no question. They’re pretty evenly-matched wrestlers, but somebody’s gotta go out there and assert themselves and establish a little bit of dominance and impose their will. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Mekhi Lewis won, but Virginia Tech fell to Ohio State in Cassell Coliseum in 2021. They meet again on Nov. 11. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech has ten days to fix up any loose ends from Saturday’s intrasquad match before traveling to Columbus to take on No. 4 Ohio State on Nov. 11. The team has the Southeast Open on Nov. 5 in Salem before the regular season begins.


125: Eddie Ventresca dec. Cooper Flynn, 3-1 SV

133: Sam Latona maj dec. Brandon Wittenberg, 18-4

141: Tom Crook dec. Collin Gerardi, 7-4

149: Caleb Henson maj dec. Kylan Montgomery, 12-1

157: Bryce Andonian dec. Jackson Spires, 12-7

165: Connor Brady dec. Drew Nicholson, 3-1

174: Ty Finn dec. Harrison Smith, 7-2

184: Hunter Bolen maj dec. Sam Fisher, 8-0

197: Andy Smith dec. TJ Stewart, 8-2

285: Hunter Catka win by fall Alex Rosenbaum, 0:34

Extra Matches:

125: Eddie Ventresca tie Cooper Flynn, 1-1 SV (match was called after 17 minutes)

165: Connor Brady dec. Drew Nicholson, 5-4 SV

4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Speak for yourself. It’s a game. It’s not life and death DADEC52 with all due respect. No pain here. Football will eventually right itself. It just ain’t going to happen for awhile. Go Hokies!!!!!

  2. I am really excited about the wrestling season! I am a loyal Hokie fan and shall remain a Hokie as long I live. This season for Football has been a difficult one for me to watch at times. And to be completely honest watching Hooker with a real chance to win not only a national Championship but possibly Heisman as well… Knowing that he was here… I am ready to see Coach Robie and the team fight for a national championship. Seeing the baseball team have success as well as the softball team, and both basketball programs. Unfortunately Fuente and Corny has set the Football program back about 10-15 years. We have a long road back. But that being said… GO HOKIES!!!!!

    1. No they didn’t Tony. Poor AD and leadership did that long before Fuente got here. But that obviously makes you feel better to blame someone else.

  3. Basketball Men’s and Women’s and what may well be our best Wrestling all getting going! That ought to ease our current pain. Terrific article, looking forward to seeing some matches this year!

Comments are closed.