The #2 Virginia Tech Hokies take on the #12 Ohio State Buckeyes this Friday night in what will be one of our best early season duals at the NCAA Division I level. From my perspective, despite the fact that Virginia Tech is ranked much higher than Ohio State, there is only one match where the Hokies are highly favored. On the flip side, there is another match where the Buckeyes are highly favored. Other than that, while some of the matches do favor by ranking, I'd call more of closer to toss-ups. Should be a good dual & I wouldn't rule the Buckeyes out.
|#4 Eddie Ventresca Vs U.R. Brendan McCrone|
If the dual meet starts at 125 lbs, here is where the Hokies can get some momentum & a possible psychological edge over the Buckeyes. Ventresca, an All American last season has the opportunity to put some bonus points up on the board for Virginia Tech. A fall or a tech? I don't think so, but I do see a major being a real possibility. If McCrone could keep this to a decision, that would be huge for the Buckeyes.
|#4 Sam Latona Vs #8 Nic Bouzakis|
Neither one of these guys started off the first week of collegiate wrestling the way they wanted to. Sam Latona suffered an upset at the Southeast Open & Nic Bouzakis went into the Clarion Open the #1 seed, only to lose twice in a row to finish a disappointing 4th. Both of these guys will be looking to redeem themselves & a win over the other would do just that. Bouzakis looking for an upset not only for himself, but for his team & Latona looking to prevent both.
|U.R. Mac Church Vs #5 Jesse Mendez |
If the Hokies have taken the first two matches, this is where a shift back in favor of the Buckeyes could begin. Mac Church has yet to wrestle a varsity Division I match & All American Jesse Mendez has thus far looked just plain mean, collecting three tech falls & a fall. I can't see this ending in anything other than bonus points for the Buckeyes & they may very well be bonus points that the Buckeyes are in need of. Depending on how the 133 lbs match goes, if Mendez could gain 5 or even 6 team points, that would be huge for Ohio State.
|#4 Caleb Henson Vs #5 Dylan D'Emilio|
Here's the match of the dual my friends. We have ourselves what could very well be the most important match of the night. Two All Americans from last season, going head to head in a battle, that could determine the outcome of the war between these two tremendous teams. Very excited for this matchup.
|#6 Bryce Andonian Vs #16 Paddy Gallagher|
This one obviously favors the Hokies, but I wouldn't necessarily count Gallagher out yet. As of right now despite how good he is, he's still seen by many as "Sammy Sasso's backup, until he's ready to compete again." He is obviously wanting to get out from that moniker & show the nation he's one that should be taken seriously in his own right. So no doubt about it, he'll be looking to knock Andonian off. Andonian already knows this, he's well aware of it. That's why he's earned two All American honors thus far in his career. The question often arises between the wolf on top of the mountain and the wolf climbing the mountain. We'll see it unfold Friday night.
|#18 Connor Brady Vs #19 Bryce Hepner|
Not as anticipated but every bit as important to the outcome of the dual will be the match between Connor Brady & Bryce Hepner at 165 lbs. The last time these two met, Brady squeaked by Hepner in a tight 3-2 match. Depending on how the dual has gone thus far, he may very well have the pressure of beating Hepner again. Or the pressure may very well be on Hepner's shoulders, to pull off the mild upset in order to help his team. Either way this is a very important match in this dual & could be the deciding factor.
|#3 Mekhi Lewis Vs #7 Carson Kharchla |
An NCAA champion & two time NCAA DI finalist, the odds are obviously in Virginia Tech's favor going into this match. I do not see an upset here. Here's the kicker though. In a dual like this, bonus points can be extremely vital. I think a healthy Kharchla could keep this match to a decision, but how often do we get a healthy Kharchla? From the looks of it, I thought Kharchla might have MFF'd at the Clarion Open to give Rocco Welsh an opportunity to see where he stood. Maybe he really was hurt/injured & really did need to MFF down to 4th place. I don't know. I do know though, that his health could very well play a huge part in this dual. A healthy Kharchla can keep Lewis to a decision, but Lewis will rip an unhealthy Kharchla apart. Buckeyes don't want to give up any bonus points in this dual. I don't think they can really afford to, unless they pull off a few upsets & win all of the tossups. Say the Buckeyes go with Welsh instead? Not sure if he'll avoid a major Vs Lewis either.
|#28 Sam Fisher Vs #11 Gavin Hoffman|
Here's the match Bonnie Tyler will want to pay attention to. Going into this weight class, we could be getting down to the nitty gritty. This could be a match that puts it away for either team, depending on who wins. If you've been reading me for very long, you know how I feel about Gavin Hoffman. I consider him to be the most inconsistent/unpredictable wrestler of the '23-'24 season. The guy has the tools to do very well this season. If he were to come into this dual & throw Fisher around like a rag doll, racking up major decision bonus points for the Buckeyes, it wouldn't surprise me any. If he were to drop a match, in a big upset to Fisher, that wouldn't surprise me any either. As I said earlier, I don't know if the Hokies are really 10 spots better than the Buckeyes or not. I'm not sure I buy that there is that big of a differential between the two teams. Hoffman has an opportunity to prove not only himself but the Buckeyes here. Fisher of course looking for a huge win to propel his career, while looking to hold the Buckeyes at bay.
|#14 Andy Smith Vs #19 Luke Geog|
There were times last year when Andy Smith looked extremely sharp on the mat, and he'll want to continue that style of wrestling in this dual. Luke Geog, looking for the first huge win of his redshirt freshman season, will be looking to pull off the upset. What a start to a varsity career if Geog were to pull off this victory & help lead the Buckeyes to an upset over the Hokies. Great opportunity for the young scarlet and gray. Smith is a very tough costumer though. One who is looking to go up the ladder, not down it.
|#16 Hunter Catka Vs #20 Nick Feldman|
A battle of experience Vs youth in our heaviest weight class. Not much separates these two as far as the on paper rankings are concerned. Have a seasoned two time NCAA qualifier against a redshirt freshman, who was already collecting wins over DI collegiate wrestlers while still in high school. There's a chance that we could start this dual at 125 lbs & there's a chance that it could very well come down to the final match of the night. These early season duals can have such an effect on team moral. The Buckeyes have a few elders on the squad, but for the most part it's a bunch of young turks. To pull off an upset over the #2 team, imagine what that could do for Ohio State? All happenings have a beginning & we could see the start of something Friday night. Then again, the Hokies #2 ranking wasn't just pulled out of someone's rear. They earned that preseason distinction. Catka Vs Feldman. Should be a good match.
* - Rankings via intermat