No. 8 Virginia Tech Wrestling Hosts No. 5 NC State In ACC Opener

Sam Latona knows a thing or two about winning big matches for Virginia Tech over NC State. (Ivan Morozov)

No. 8 Virginia Tech welcomes No. 5 NC State to Blacksburg on Friday night, looking to snag its first win over the Wolfpack since 2021 when Sam Latona’s takedown at the buzzer won the night for VT. The match is at 7 p.m. on the ACC Network.

In a match projected to feature several ranked bouts — including a pair of rematches — there is plenty of intrigue.

With major ACC dual meet title implications, the Hokies have their eyes set on taking down undefeated NC State. In order to pull off the upset, there are a couple of weight classes that must go VT’s way. I’ll go over a couple of them below.

*All matchups are based on Wrestlestat’s projected matches*

Hunter Bolen has been on a role lately. His match is one of the biggest on Friday night. (Ivan Morozov)

184 pounds: No. 7 Hunter Bolen vs No. 3 Trent Hidlay

There’s plenty of history between Bolen and Hidlay as the two have squared off five times in their career. Bolen owns the all-time series 3-2 but hasn’t notched a win against the former All-American since February 2021.

Although there is massive parity in collegiate wrestling, Hidlay does own the advantage when looking at a common opponent between him and Bolen this season.

Bolen sits at 10-2 on the season. His only losses came against Ohio State’s No. 5 Kaleb Romero as he fell in two of their three bouts this year. On the flip side, Hidlay (14-1) took down Romero at the Cliff Keen Invitational in their only meeting, 4-1.

This match is essentially a toss up due to the familiarity of the wrestlers, but the result will undoubtedly play a large part in which team finishes on top on Friday night.

149 pounds: No. 9 Caleb Henson vs No. 15 Jackson Arrington

Henson has made a name for himself this year by taking down some of the country’s best wrestlers at 149 pounds in just his freshman season. On Friday night, he’ll have a chance to add another impressive ranked victory under his belt against fellow standout true freshman Jackson Arrington.

Caleb Henson has his hands full with another ranked wrestler against NC State. The freshman’s wrestled well so far for Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

At No. 20 Appalachian State on Jan. 13, Henson took down No. 10 and former All-American Jonathan Millner in overtime, 6-3. Arrington had two cracks at Millner this year and was shutout 6-0 in both bouts.

Both wrestlers’ performances against Millner this season gives reason to believe that Henson should have the edge heading into the dual. Regardless, it will require a stellar outing from the talented true freshman to pick up another ranked victory against Arrington.

285 pounds: No. 23 Hunter Catka vs No. 12 Owen Trephan

Similar to 184 pounds, Catka and Trephan won’t face off for the first time. Friday night will be the third meeting between the two heavyweights with the all-time series tied at one.

Hunter Catka knows Owen Trephan pretty well. That match could well decide Friday’s dual for Virginia Tech and NC State. (Ivan Morozov)

The two heavyweights haven’t squared off in over a year, since Trephan took down Catka at last year’s Southern Scuffle, 5-3. Catka won their first matchup two months before by the same score, 5-3. 

Both wrestlers enter Friday’s bout with much more experience than their prior meetings and long winning streaks. Whoever made the most improvement since they split their pair of bouts last season could end up earning the deciding win in the dual.

Prediction: No. 8 Virginia Tech over No. 5 NC State, 17-16

Virginia Tech can pull out a victory against NC State if the Hokies are able to win the matches where they have significantly higher ranked wrestlers and avoid bonus point losses in bouts they aren’t favored.

Here’s my realistic roadmap to a Hokies victory:

125: No. 20 Eddie Ventresca/Cooper Flynn (VT) dec. No. 29 Jarrett Trombley

133: No. 5 Sam Latona (VT) maj dec. No. 25 Kai Orine

141: No. 6 Ryan Jack dec. No. 15 Tom Crook (VT)

149: No. 9 Caleb Henson (VT) dec. No. 15 Jackson Arrington

157: No. 7 Ed Scott maj dec. Clayton Ulrey (VT)

165: No. 20 Connor Brady (VT) dec. No. 32 Matthew Singleton/Donald Cates 

174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (VT) maj dec. No. 32 Alex Faison 

184: No. 3 Trent Hidlay dec. No. 7 Hunter Bolen (VT)

197: No. 6 Isacc Trumble dec. No. 26 Andy Smith (VT)

285: No. 12 Owen Trephan dec. No. 23 Hunter Catka (VT)

If Virginia Tech can keep things close in the matches where the Wolfpack is favored, expect the Hokies to have a good chance of getting their first win over NC State in two years. More importantly, they’d be in the driver’s seat to take home this year’s ACC dual meet title.

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