Virginia Tech wrestler Andy Smith (197) knew it before it happened. He told Caleb Henson in warm-ups that he was going to upset No. 6 Isaac Trumble.
Fueled by his strong self-belief and some late-match heroics, the Christiansburg native took down the talented Trumble, 3-1, all but icing the dual for No. 8 Virginia Tech (7-2, 1-0).
“I wasn’t losing,” Smith said to reporters after his match. “I knew coming up to this week, I’m just going to go out there, do what I do and I’ll come out on top.”
Smith’s unlikely victory proved key in Virginia Tech’s 16-14 win over No. 5 NC State (10-1, 0-1) Friday night, which puts the Hokies in the driver’s seat to win the ACC dual meet title.
The performance couldn’t have come at a better time — Tech set a program record for attendance against NC State, totaling 5,943 fans in Cassell Coliseum.
“I’ve been here for a long time and that’s probably the loudest and the funnest atmosphere we’ve ever had in Cassell Coliseum,” head coach Tony Robie said. “Everybody who came up from NC State, kudos to you. Everybody that showed up from Virginia Tech, we appreciate you, because that atmosphere was electric in there. It certainly contributed to us winning the match.”
Before Smith’s decisive win at 197 pounds, the biggest cheer from the crowd belonged to No. 6 Bryce Andonian (157). He made his dual season debut against the Wolfpack, obliterating No. 7 Ed Scott in a major decision victory, 24-10.
The former All-American exploded in the first period, racking up a pair of near falls to lead 10-6 after the initial three minutes. He added 14 more points over the final four minutes of the match, providing ample evidence that his injury problems this year haven’t taken anything away from his ability to dominate other elite wrestlers.
“I’m grateful that I was able to go out and be fearless,” Andonian said.
His major decision was the only bonus-point victory of the night for either side, making the difference in Virginia Tech’s two-point upset win. NC State had a point taken off the board after No. 32 Matt Singleton threw his headgear following his win over No. 22 Connor Brady (165).
Brady was one of four Virginia Tech wrestlers to lose in overtime against the Wolfpack. No. 20 Eddie Ventresca (125), No. 7 Hunter Bolen (184) and No. 23 Hunter Catka (285) all suffered losses in OT.
“To be quite honest, we left a lot on the table out there, a lot on the table,” Robie said. “We’ve gotta improve and we’ve gotta get better. We lost four overtime matches. It’s not really acceptable for that to happen.”
Bolen nearly earned his fourth career victory over No. 3 Trent Hidlay but gave up a takedown late in regulation, which sent the match to overtime. Catka also gave up a chance to lead the all-time series with No. 12 Owen Trephan, falling 3-1 to move to 1-2 in his career against the Wolfpack wrestler.
Meanwhile, Ventresca’s loss marks his fifth in his last seven matches. Robie said that there will be more consideration starting fellow redshirt freshman Cooper Flynn over Ventresca at 125 pounds moving forward.
True freshman No. 9 Caleb Henson (149) picked up another impressive ranked victory over No. 15 Jackson Arrington, 6-1. The win was his second top-15 victory in two weeks — evidence that he could go far in the postseason despite being in his first year of college.
“Confidence and give credit to coaches and God,” Henson said of his red hot start to his collegiate career. “It’s a blessing. I’m grateful to be here and every opportunity to compete.
“Just keep looking forward to the next one and keep training for that big tournament in March. That’s what I’ve got my eyes set on and I’m just grateful for the opportunities to compete. Just go out there and take advantage of them and the results take care of themselves.”
No. 5 Sam Latona (133) and No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (174) both nabbed decision victories against NC State. No. 12 Tom Crook (141) suffered a narrow loss to No. 6 Ryan Jack, 2-1.
The Hokies now control their own destiny in the ACC with the win over the Wolfpack. The last eight ACC dual meet titles were evenly distributed between the two programs, and Tech will likely secure its fifth title in nine years if it makes it through conference play unscathed.
Four conference bouts stand in the way of VT and its goal, with next Friday night at 7 p.m. in Cassell against Pittsburgh (7-2, 1-0) being the first of the stretch.
Results: No. 8 Virginia Tech 16, No. 5 NC State 14
125: No. 29 Jarrett Trombley (NCSU) dec. No. 20 Eddie Ventresca (VT), 3-1 (SV)
133: No. 5 Sam Latona (VT) dec. No. 25 Kai Orine (NCSU), 3-1
141: No. 6 Ryan Jack (NCSU) dec. No. 12 Tom Crook (VT), 2-1
149: No. 9 Caleb Henson (VT) dec. No. 15 Jackson Arrington (NCSU), 6-1
157: No. 6 Bryce Andonian (VT) maj dec. No. 7 Ed Scott (NCSU), 24-10
165: No. 32 Matt Singleton (NCSU) dec. No. 20 Connor Brady (VT), 5-3 (SV)
174: No. 3 Mekhi Lewis (VT) dec. No. 32 Alex Faison (NCSU), 8-2
184: No. 3 Trent Hidlay (NCSU) dec. No. 7 Hunter Bolen (VT), 5-3 (SV)
197: No. 26 Andy Smith (VT) dec. No. 6 Isaac Trumble (NCSU), 3-2
285: No. 12 Owen Trephan (NCSU) dec. No. 23 Hunter Catka (VT), 3-1 (SV)