This past weekend the Virginia Tech wrestling team’s season came to a close in St. Louis, Mo. at the NCAA D-1 Wrestling Championships.
The Hokies had six wrestlers compete in nationals: Erik Spjut (125), Devin Carter (133), Zach Neibert (141), Nick Brascetta (149), Pete Yates (165) and Chris Moon (174).
Both Carter and Yates received a national seed (both were the No. 6 seed in their respective weight class) but were faced with trouble in the first day. Carter, who was ranked No. 1 nationally earlier in the season, lost his second-round match and was sent to the consolation round.
Yates didn’t fair any better, losing his first match as well by pin to un-seeded Nathan McCormick of Missouri. The bright spot for the Hokies on day one was Zach Neibert, who made it to the quarterfinals. Neibert then went on to lose his next two, not placing in the tournament.
After losing in the second round, Carter then went on to win four matches in a row, making it to the semifinal of the consolation round. He faced off against Tony Ramos from Iowa whom he went 1-1 against this season.
Ramos got the better of Carter, sending him to the fifth-place match. Carter pinned B.J. Gutrell of Illinois in 1:45 to take fifith place and All-American honors. Head coach Kevin Dresser was pleased with the sophomore’s resiliency and toughness.
“Devin had one bad match, and he paid for it,” Dresser said. “He lost, and he had to fight back to get fifth place. He had some matches that were do or die — that if you lose, you are done. In the All-American round, he had a guy that beat him 13-3 a month and a half ago, and then he beat that guy by four or five points. It really comes down to toughness when you get to Friday and Saturday of that tournament, and Devin’s toughness shined.”
Yates loss in the first round forced him to have to win five matches in a row for a chance of placing in the tournament. He did just that, including a 10-3 decision of the No. 2 seed Shane Onufer of Wyoming.
He then lost in the semifinal of the consolation round and was matched against Josh Asper of Maryland for fifth place. Yates, who beat Asper in overtime to win the ACC Championship, again prevailed earning fifth place and All-American honors.
“Pete had to beat some really good guys on the way back, and again, it was an example of toughness,” Dresser said. “Pete wrestled the best when the pressure was on the most, and that says a lot about him.”
Carter and Yates are Dresser’s second and third All-Americans in his sixth season as head coach. The Hokies finished in 11th place scoring 30 points in nationals, the highest place and points by any Tech wrestling squad. Dresser was happy with his team’s performance, but still is not satisfied.
“Everybody wants to get to the podium, and (Carter and Yates) got to the podium, but the next step is getting to the top of the podium,” Dresser said. “It is exciting to get two All-Americans, it is exciting to get 11th in the nation, but there is more out there for us.”
Next year, Tech will possibly have its best chance ever at getting its first ACC Championship as a team. The past two years, the Hokies have finished in second place.
Seniors Jesse Dong (157) and Jarrod Garnett (125), who both won ACC Championships last year, will be coming back for their fifth year after receiving a medical redshirt. Redshirt senior David Marone could possibly return for his sixth season, but remains undecided on his decision.
The Hokies will be returning two All-Americans in Yates and Carter, along with five previous ACC Champions. With this roster, Dresser is raising the bar for next season. He fully believes his team can achieve high goals and is wasting no time in preparing for next season.
“Knock on wood, if we can stay healthy, we could have a really good team next year,” Dresser said. “We are going to set high goals, and we are going to go to work.”