In front of 5,943 fans, the highest amount of people to ever gather for a wrestling match in Cassell Coliseum, the No. 8 Virginia Tech wrestling team (7–2, 1–0 ACC) upset their biggest rival, the No. 5 NC State Wolfpack (10–1, 0–1 ACC). Not only was this the biggest dual of the year for the Hokies and the Pack, but it was one of the biggest duals in the nation, with all 20 wrestlers being ranked.
The Hokies won on Friday night 16–14, the difference being a bonus point from Bryce Andonian and an unsportsmanlike call against the Wolfpack. However, most people would say that this dual came down to the 197-pound bout, where Andy Smith was able to pick up a huge upset and nearly seal the win for the Hokies.
“I just want to thank everyone that came out tonight,” said Virginia Tech head coach Tony Robie. “I have been here for a long time, and that was probably the loudest and most fun atmosphere I have seen in Cassell Coliseum.”
The loudest match of the night in Cassell was the 197-pound bout that put the Hokies in an excellent position to win the dual. No. 26 Smith, a junior from Christiansburg, Virginia, gritted out one of the biggest, if not the biggest, win of his collegiate career over No. 6 Issac Trumble by a score of 3–2.
With the score tied at one and time dwindling down, Smith got the first takedown of the match with around 20 seconds remaining to take a 3–1 lead. The crowd roared for the final 20 seconds of the match as Smith was able to fend off every attack from Trumble. Nearly 6,000 fans sounded like a packed house.
“I wasn’t going to lose,” said Smith. “I knew I could go out there, do my thing, and come out on top.”
This decision took the dual score to 16–11, making it very tough for the Wolfpack to take the lead in the final match of the night.
In the only match that awarded bonus points during this dual, No. 6 Bryce Andonian was able to defeat No. 7 Ed Scott in an electric fashion, at 157 pounds. Andonian, who has battled injuries all season, had his season dual debut and showed the Hokie fans how important he is to this team. Andonian mentioned after the dual that he didn’t know he was going to wrestle tonight until around an hour before the dual, but he wanted to do it for his team, knowing how big this dual is for the Hokies’ squad.
“It means everything to me,” Andonian said. “Going out there, defending my brothers, and wrestling for them.”
Early in Andonian’s match, he was able to get a takedown and four more points for a near fall, which kept up the entire match. He was awarded 12 total near-fall points in the first period and took a 16–6 lead into the second period. In that period, Andonian picked up three more points, taking a 19–6 lead into the final period. In the final period, Andonian scored five more points to take his point total up to 24, but he gave up four as well. This put the final score at 24–10; Andonian flirted with a tech fall but was unable to achieve it. However, this major decision made the difference in a dual where both teams won five matches.
The other three Hokie victories came from their talent within the top 10 in the nation, No. 5 Sam Latona, No. 9 Caleb Henson and No. 3 Mekhi Lewis.
Latona picked up his decision over No. 25 Kai Orine by a score of 3–1 at 133 pounds. Like most matches on Friday night, his victory was a hard-fought battle that came down to the final seconds. He got a takedown right at the first-period buzzer, making the score 2–0, which ended up being the only takedown in this match. Latona defended off every Orine attack in the final two periods to secure the first points for the Hokies.
Henson’s victory was against No. 15 Jackson Arrington, another marquee victory for the true freshman. Henson’s match was one of the only ones on Friday night that was a clear-cut win. Getting two takedowns, an escape and a point for riding time, he cruised his way to a 6–1 victory that at the time tied up the team score 6–6.
“When I train, I envision myself winning, and that is what I do,” said Henson. “I think I am the best, I train like I am the best, and I am going to prove that in March.”
Lewis picked up an 8–2 decision over No. 32 Alex Faison, another match that featured a definite victory. Lewis led this match from start to finish.
This victory sets up the Hokies well for the dual ACC championship, as the Pack was their biggest competition for the title. The Hokies will be back in action for another edition of Friday Night Dual against Pitt on Jan. 27 in Cassell Coliseum.