The Virginia Tech Hokies waltzed into North Carolina looking to solidify their standing among the best teams in the NCAA. The Hokies would first take on unranked Duke in Durham, a trap duel that would prove to the rest of the league whether or not Virginia Tech meant business. Following a close 19-15 victory over the UVA Cavaliers, it appeared as though Virginia Tech was vulnerable to dropping critical in-conference duels to unranked foes. Duke, though, would not be a problem.
Virginia Tech got off to an incredibly hot start as Hunter Catka secured the Tech fall in an astonishing 18-1 victory over Duke’s Jonah Niesenbaum. The Hokies would then rip off six straight victories, two of them by fall as No.1 Mekhi Lewis pinned his opponent in 34 seconds, the shortest duration taken to pin an opponent by a Virginia Tech wrestler thus far. Lewis would take a page out of No. 12 Bryce Andonian’s book as Andonian previously pinned Duke’s only ranked wrestler in roughly one minute. The only loss for the Hokies came at the hands of freshman Sam Fisher, the four-time Virginia state champion. Fisher has yet to pick up a victory on the season but remains a major bright spot for the Hokie wrestling program and its future. Nonetheless, Virginia Tech secured the lopsided, 42-3 beatdown victory, reinforcing the legitimacy of this year's slate of Hokie wrestlers.
After a demoralizing defeat in Cassell Coliseum to the Tar Heels last season, Virginia Tech looked to snap its two-match skid against No. 14 North Carolina. Setting the tone for the match by getting out to a hot start would be critical in order to defeat a strong Tar Heels squad. The Hokies would do just that, as both No. 10 Sam Latona and No. 8 Korbin Myers secured major decisions to give Virginia Tech a comfortable 8-0 lead. The matchup between Myers and No. 11 Jaime Hernandez would be a principle determining factor for the outcome of the duel. The tide turned in favor of Myers as he utterly dominated Hernandez, defeating him 11-2 and illustrating the difference in skill between the two. The score would tighten to 11-6 as No. 12 Bryce Andonian and Sam Hillegas each lost their matchups against No. 1 Austin O’Connor and No. 10 Zach Sherman. However, the Tar Heels would need to secure multiple victories; it would be no easy feat, with the two-headed monster in Lewis and Bolen still yet to wrestle.
Bolen defeated No. 15 Clay Lautt impressively, but Lewis would run into quite the buzzsaw in No. 8 Kennedy Monday. Lewis seized the early lead with a takedown and quite a bit of riding time, acquiring the 2-0 lead. Monday would not go out without a fight, though, exchanging words with Lewis on multiple occasions and eventually putting a point on the board after an escape. Entering the final minute of the third period, Lewis boasting the 3-1 lead, Monday was desperate for a takedown and shockingly got one to even the score. Despite the tie, Lewis maintained an advantage in riding time and thus was awarded the winning point, continuing his 25-game collegiate winning streak in a 4-3 decision. David McFadden, a Virginia Tech wrestling legend, tweeted that Monday’s takedown was the first given up by Lewis since his first collegiate match two years ago, demonstrating the skill level of both Monday and Lewis.
Dakota Howard put the nail in the coffin, securing the upset victory over No. 9 Devin Kane 8-7. Down for a majority of the match, Howard appeared on his way to another, providing the Tar Heels a glimpse of light. As the match progressed, Howard only got stronger while his opponent seemed to burn out, securing shot after shot and takedown after takedown. Dakota achieved his first victory of the season in a 8-7 decision against a top-10 opponent, cementing the victory for Virginia Tech. The Hokies cleaned up the rest of the duel as well, winning four of their last five and achieving the 23-9 win. Picking up their first ranked win of the season, they will look ahead to add another lofty win to their resume against stiff competition in the form of No. 3 N.C. State on Feb. 5.