Virginia Tech had an impressive start to the 2019 NCAA Wrestling championships on Thursday, sending six wrestlers on to the round of 16. All four of the Hokies' top 10 seeds won their first-round matches, while Korbin Myers and Ryan Blees pulled off impressive victories.
Myers got the day started for the Hokies at 133 pounds. The 14th-seeded wrestler took on Josh Terao of American, winning an 11-3 major decision to give Tech some bonus points right off the bat. He'll face Rutgers' Nick Suriano in the round of 16 later tonight.
He was followed by Mitch Moore at 141 pounds. The standout freshman faced off against 9-seed Don Demas of Oklahoma. Described as two guys who "like to lock up and throw," by the PA announcer, Demas and Moore went back and forth for the first period and a half. Late in the match, Demas started to rack up the points on the way to an 11-3 major decision, sending Moore to the consolation bracket. Moore will take on Duke's Josh Finesilver in the first round of wrestlebacks.
Ryan Blees provided one of the most exciting matches of the afternoon, knocking off seven-seed Kaden Gfeller. Blees came into the tournament seeded 26th, making his win one of the biggest upsets so far.
Blees and Gfeller went into sudden victory overtime tied 1-1, where Blees was able to get in on a single leg and score a takedown to win the match. The win sends him on to the next round, where he'll face Iowa's Pat Lugo.
B.C. LaPrade fought hard in the first period of his match against John Van Brill, but got turned on his back a couple of times in the second period as Van Brill racked up the near fall points. Van Brill would go on to win the match 10-2, sending LaPrade into the consolation bracket. He'll face Duke's Ben Anderson, who he recently beat twice at the ACC Tournament.
Once the tournament got to the heavier weights, the Hokies started picking up more momentum. Mekhi Lewis took on Virginia's Cam Coy, who he has already beaten twice this season. Lewis had a 4-0 lead late in the match, but kept working for back points. He ended up pinning Coy with under 30 seconds to go, giving the Hokies more bonus points and sending them into the top 10 in team score.
David McFadden had a solid first-round outing, defeating Binghamton's Vincent Deprez 4-0 to advance to the next round. He'll face Army's Ben Harvey in the round of 16 on Thursday night. Redshirt senior Zack Zavatsky kept the wins coming for the Hokies, beating CSU-Bakersfield's Dom Ducharme 8-2 to advance to the next round. He'll face Cameron Caffey of Michigan State later tonight.
Tom Sleigh kept himself alive in the first round, winning a 2-1 decision over Pitt's Kellan Stout. Sleigh had recently beaten Stout 4-3 at the ACC Tournament, and today's match was every bit as close. Neither wrestler was able to score in the first period, but an escape in the second gave Sleigh a 1-0 lead.
The Hokies' 197-pounder rode out the majority of the third period to lock up the riding time point. Stout was able to escape close to the end of the match, but riding time gave Sleigh the decision. He'll move on to face Jay Aiello in the round of 16. Sleigh has split matches with Aiello this year, losing to him in Las Vegas, but beating him at the Virginia Duals.
The session ended on a sour note for the Hokies, as heavyweight Billy Miller dropped a 13-4 major decision to Lock Haven's Thomas Haines. Miller will face Appalachian State's Cary Miller in the first round of consolation matches on Thursday night.
Tech finished the session in the top 10 in the team score, tied for ninth with Northern Iowa. Both teams have nine team points at this time.
Wrestling will resume during session two at 7 p.m. this evening from Pittsburgh. The second session will consist of the round of 16 in the championship bracket and the first round of consolation matches.
Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics