It just wasn't Virginia Tech’s night at Cassell Coliseum. Fans filled the stands to witness what is appearing to be possibly the greatest Virginia Tech wrestling program of all time and one of the greatest teams in Virginia Tech sports history. As one of the most highly anticipated duals of the season, the Hokies would welcome the challenge and answer the bell as they have done all season as evident by wins against notable opponents such as Cornell, Ohio State and Northwestern. The North Carolina Tar Heels would not shy away from the challenge, though, as they picked apart the Hokie lineup one wrestler at a time Friday night.
From the get-go, the Hokies knew it wasn't going to be easy defeating a physical and hungry UNC squad, so setting the tone early would be crucial in capturing a team win and remaining undefeated. The losses seamingly began to stack up one by one for Virginia Tech as it dropped six of its first seven matches, with its one win coming at the hands of redshirt freshman Collin Gerardi. Gerardi and 133-pounder Tar Heel Jaime Hernandez grappled in what would turn out to be an extremely competitive match with Gerardi squeezing out a 3-3 victory due to an advantage in riding time.
Down 9-3 after losses from Mitch Moore and Bryce Andonian, Virginia Tech felt good about its chances of a comeback victory, as did the crowd as everyone cheered on. UNC would have to bring the fight to many of the Hokies’ best wrestlers in No. 19 B.C. LaPrade, No. 3 David McFadden and No. 2 Hunter Bolen.
A bit stunned, Virginia Tech faithfully waited and waited for a glimpse of hope, and it would lean on redshirt senior and three-time NCAA All-American David McFadden to pull another trick out of his hat. Many times before, McFadden, a seasoned and polished veteran, has reached into his bag of tricks and virtually dominated each underdog that wished to dethrone him, but tonight would not be one of those nights.
No. 17 Kennedy Monday of North Carolina made it look simple as he fought physically with McFadden and ended up on the victorious end, taking down and punishing the Hokies’ best wrestler multiple times. What would be the insurmountable nail in the coffin for McFadden was the eight nearfall points awarded to his opponent when barely avoiding two incredibly close calls of getting pinned. The match would end in a 21-6 Tech fall in favor of Monday as he ran off the mat celebrating with his teammates on the sideline in what would be a silent Cassell Coliseum.
This would be salt in the wound for the Hokies as the Tar Heels could merely stall out the rest of the matches during the dual and still emerge with the victory, and that is exactly what they would do as the final score between the two teams was a lopsided 23-10 score in favor of North Carolina.
While the night definitely did not play out the way Hokie fans and wrestlers envisioned prior to the start of the dual, there is a monumental amount to learn from this loss for the resilient Hokies’ wrestling squad. By returning to the drawing board and their roots, you can be sure that it will bring the fight and physicality characteristics of Virginia Tech wrestling back when the team takes on Virginia on Jan. 31.