College basketball may get all the attention, but it’s NCAA tournament time for the wrestling team, too.
Virginia Tech will send a school-record of 10 wrestlers to Des Moines, Iowa to compete in the team championships from Thursday to Saturday, joining Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Penn State as the only teams to send competitors in every weight class to the event.
“This program is really going in the right direction,” said head coach Kevin Dresser. “This is really good to have under our hat.”
Four Hokies earned seeds for the tournament, with Pete Yates ranking the highest, coming in as the third seed in the 165-pound class.
Jarrod Garnett followed close behind with the fifth seed at 125 pounds, while Jesse Dong grabbed the seventh seed at 157 and Nick Brascetta earned the eighth seed at 149.
“We’ve had a long, competitive season, with lots of travel, so hopefully that’ll be good preparation for these guys,” Dresser said.
Erick Spjut, Zach Neibert, Austin Gabel, Nick Vetterlein, Derick Borlie and David Marone round out the rest of Tech’s competitors.
The Hokies have never fielded an NCAA champion, a fact all of the wrestlers will be looking to change come Thursday.
“All of our guys have proven themselves, especially the ones that earned seeds, and they want to win titles,” Dresser said. “Most of them may be underdogs to do so, but they’re still ready.”
At first glance, Yates may have the best chance of any of Tech’s wrestlers to fulfill his championship dreams, considering he’s a two-time ACC champion and has qualified for the NCAAs in each of his four years.
He also has the good fortune to avoid the possibility of facing off against a seeded opponent until the third round of the tournament.
His opening round challenger, Rutgers’ Nicholas Visicaro, is just 15-9 on the season, giving Yates a relatively easy opening to the event.
However, things will undoubtedly get more difficult as he advances farther into the bracket. Cornell’s Kyle Dake has been dominant this season, compiling a perfect 32-0 record and earning the class’ first seed, while second-seeded David Taylor of Penn State also boasts an impressive 26-1 record.
Garnett should also stand a decent chance at advancing in the tournament. Like Yates, he has also qualified for the tournament four times, in addition to his three ACC titles, but his road to success seems more difficult.