After a heated and controversial first two rounds of competition at the 2019 ACC Wrestling Championships, Virginia Tech has four wrestlers who have made the finals of the ACC Championships.
Former All-Americans David McFadden and Zack Zavatsky along with freshmen Mekhi Lewis and Mitch Moore have all earned spots in tonight's finals. All four wrestlers had byes in the first round and won their semifinal matches to advance to the championship round.
Moore opened the run of Hokies to the final at 141 beating AC Headlee of North Carolina 6-3 in an entertaining match with a strong close from Moore. The victory was redemption for Moore after he lost to Headlee earlier this season in a dual meet with North Carolina. Moore will take on Jamel Morris of NC State in the final in a match that could have major implications on the team title race between the Hokies and Wolfpack. Morris defeated Duke's Josh Finesilver in a high-scoring 14-11 decision.
Mekhi Lewis started a run of three-straight #1 seeds making the finals for Virginia Tech as Lewis defeated Duke's Zach Finesilver 14-7 in a match that was close at one point in the third period. Lewis will take on Thomas Bullard of NC State after he upset Virginia's Cam Coy. Given the opponent, the match is a must win for the Hokies in their pursuit of the team title.
David McFadden cruised to the finals once again with a 9-1 major decision victory over North Carolina's Devin Kane. McFadden will take on Matt Finesilver of Duke, the 17th-ranked 174 wrestler according to Intermat, after Finesilver defeated NC State's Daniel Bullard 4-1.
Zack Zavatsky made it 3-for-3 with a strong performance defeating North Carolina's Chip Ness, a former All-American, 8-1. Zavatsky will take on Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh, the ninth-ranked 184 wrestler according to Intermet, after Bonaccorsi defeated NC State's Nick Reenan, ranked fourth in the country, 10-3.
The four victories earned Moore, Lewis, McFadden, and Zavatsky automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia Tech also came close to having multiple other finalists after the Hokies had all 10 of their wrestlers make the semifinals.
The most controversial moment came late in a 197 final between Tom Sleigh, the 2 seed, and NC State's Malik McDonald when the ref made a controversial stall call against Sleigh, giving McDonald the winning point with about 10 seconds to go in the match. That call is almost impossible to defend and appeared to be a way-too-early stall call especially with Sleigh's movement immediately after, leading to rightfully heavy protest from Tony Robie and his staff.
The call could also prove significant as it led to an 18-point swing between the Wolfpack and Hokies. Now while the difference in points could end up being closer to 8-10 upon what happens, the call is undoubtedly controversial and may cast a cloud on the final team results.
Korbin Myers, B.C. LaPrade, and Billy Miller all had particularly dramatic semifinal matches where they came up just short of earning a spot in the finals. LaPrade had a particularly dramatic match with Pittsburgh's Taleb Rahmani, ranked 10th in the country by Intermat, with Rahmani winning 4-3 after winning on a few seconds of riding time during the second loop of overtime wrestling.
Joey Prata and Ryan Blees were also unable to advance out of the semifinals and are 2 of 6 Hokies in the consolation bracket.
After the semifinals, Virginia Tech was in second with 45 points while NC State was in the team lead with 63.5 points. The consolation brackets give the Hokies an opportunity to cut into the gap.
Consolation Round 1 Update
Virginia Tech did well in the opening consolation round sweeping all six matches and picking up several valuable bonus points from major decisions including a pair of tech falls from Korbin Myers and Ryan Blees, and a fall in terms of points due to medical reasons in the favor of B.C. LaPrade.
Joey Prata started off the consolation action for the Hokies with a 5-2 victory over Brendon Fenton of Pittsburgh. Prata will face Joseph Heilmann of North Carolina in the third place match after Heilman defeated Duke's Harrison Campbell via fall. With only two automatic bids available at 125, Prata will not be able to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Heilmann.
Korbin Myers gave the Hokies some valuable bonus points thanks to a 19-3 tech fall victory over Arien Leigh to lock up an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Myers will face Gary Wayne Harding of North Carolina in the third place match after Harding defeated Virginia's Louie Hayes 11-3 in a major decision.
Ryan Blees used a dominant second period to put together arguably his best performance of the season, a 17-0 tech fall victory over Pittsburgh's Dallas Bulsak, earning Blees an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Blees will face Justin Oliver of NC State for third place after Oliver defeated Michael Murphy of Virginia via a major decision 11-3. While the points may not be high, the match between Blees and Oliver could have a significant impact on the team competition though Oliver is the heavy favorite as the eighth-ranked 149 wrestler according to Intermat.
B.C. LaPrade advanced to the third place match and locked up an NCAA Tournament after North Carolina's Josh McClure had to medically forfeit after picking up an injury earlier in the day. The forfeit is worth the points of a fall which could prove significant in the team competition. LaPrade will face Ben Anderson of the Duke in the third place match after pinning Virginia's Jake Keating.
Tom Sleigh was in a tough fight in his consolation match but used a major riding time advantage to defeat Kellan Stout of Pittsburgh 4-3, securing an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Sleigh will take on Brandon Whitman of North Carolina after Whitman defeated Duke's Alec Schenk 6-2. The mtch will be a chance for redemption for Sleigh who was defeated by Whitman when VT and UNC
faced off during the dual meet season.
Billy Miller took care of business with a 10-2 major decision victory over Virginia's Tyler Love to give the Hokies more valuable points. Miller will take on NC State's Deonte Wilson for third place and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid after Wilson had a 9-0 major decision victory over Araad Fisher of Duke. This match is also a big opportunity for the Hokies to gain even more valuable bonus points.
With all six Hokie wrestlers winning including four by a minimum of a major decision, the Hokies were able to cut the Wolfpack lead from 18.5 to 11 while creating significant separation from North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Team Standings (After Consolation Round 1)
- NC State: 77
- Virginia Tech: 66
- North Carolina: 48.5
- Pittsburgh: 35
- Duke: 32
- Virginia: 23.5
Consolation Round 2 (Third Place Match) Updates
Virginia Tech kept their strong first consolation round of momentum going as Korbin Myers took care of business at 133 with a 5-2 victory over Gary Wayne Harding of North Carolina. Myers' victory was revenge for when Harding upset Myers in a match the two ranked wrestlers had in the VT-UNC dual meet earlier this season.
Joey Prata kept it going with a dramatic third place win in sudden victory over Joseph Heilmann of North Carolina 3-1. A stall warning call against Heilmann helped send the match to sudden victory where Prata got the first and only takedown to win. The win and third place finish gives Prata a stronger case to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Ryan Blees faced a tough challenge against NC State's eighth-ranked Justin Oliver and came up short suffering a 6-1 defeat to the Wolfpack senior. The loss did give the Wolfpack a pair of points, but having it be a regular decision did prevent NC State from receiving a bonus point or 2 that they were likely hoping for.
B.C. LaPrade took care of business in his third place match defeating Ben Anderson of Duke 9-7 in a match that became tight briefly inside the final 30 seconds. LaPrade's victory gave the Hokies their 3rd third place match victory in four matches, something the Hokies needed from their wrestlers in the consolation bracket.
Virginia Tech needed a victory from Billy Miller given that he was facing an NC State wrestler in Deonte Wilson and Miller stepped up to get the job done with a 6-2 victory over Wilson. The win gave Miller an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and the Hokies some valuable bonus points.
Seconds after Miller's win, Tom Sleigh picked up a pin against North Carolina's Brandon Whitman to send the mostly Virginia Tech crowd into euphoria inside Cassell Coliseum. With the win, Sleigh was able to avenge the surprising upset loss he suffered to Whitman earlier this season in arguably the most dramatic way possible.
With the strong consolation round performance, Virginia Tech was able to cut NC State's lead in the team competition to 7.5 points. However, the Wolfpack have 6 wrestlers in the finals compared to 4 for the Hokies with a pair of matches between the two schools at 141 (Mitch Moore-VT, Jamel Morris-NCST) and 165 (Mekhi Lewis-VT, Thomas Bullard-NCST). Given that disparity, the Hokies will need some help especially at 125, 133, and 197; where the Wolfpack wrestlers are the lower seed, while also likely needing to go 4-for-4 tonight.
Team Standings After Consolation Round 2
- NC State: 84.5
- Virginia Tech: 77
- North Carolina: 47.5
- Duke: 36
- Pittsburgh: 35
- Virginia: 23.5
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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