The season is over so it is time to look ahead. In this weekly series we will look at the top 10 (at the NCAA tournament) and where they stand heading into next season.
First up is the Virginia Tech Hokies who placed tenth at this years championship. They scored 56 points and return three All-Americans and 37.5 points.
They will get Joey Dance (125) back next season. Many thought Dance to be a possible finalist this year. He ended the tournament with a 2-2 record and scored four points for the Hokies. Next year he will be considered a threat once again. Dance entered this year’s tournament as the three seed at a pretty deep weight. On the season he went 31-4. The weight is loaded with young talent so it will be interesting to see how Dance bounces back in 2016. At 133 pounds they return Kevin Norstrem who by all accounts had a good first season as the full-time starter qualifying for the national tournament and winning a match. A step forward for Norstrem in 2016 only helps the Hokies. One wrestler who seemed to take a major step forward this season was Sal Mastriani (149). Most know of him for his big upset win over teammate Devin Carter while Carter was still up at 149 pounds. He backed that early season win up posting a 25-12 record which earned him a seven seed at the NCAA tournament. Once there he did win two matches on the front side of the bracket before losing in the quarterfinals and the next round of wrestle backs.
Look for a healthy Nick Brascetta (157) to attempt a run to the finals after an impressive third place finish this year. If he is healthy you would have to think the NCAA committee might just even seed him next year. They will also return All-American Zach Epperly (174) who managed a seventh place finish in a deep weight loaded with upperclassman. Epperly impressed all season long and had a solid showing at the national tournament. With numerous guys clearing out next year he should find himself towards the top of the weight. Jared Haught (197) had somewhat of an up and down season, but he was able to secure a win at nationals and that is always a good thing. He should take another step forward next year. Finally they have Ty Walz (285) back for the 2016 push. Walz was right up there with the best in the country all season long. He placed seventh at what might have been the deepest weight overall.
Off Red Shirt
Solomon Chisko (141/149) comes off red shirt after posting a 24-7 record wrestling at both 141 and 149 pounds. It creates an interesting dilemma considering they will have three good guys for only two spots. Best case is Chisko goes down, but that may not happen. The other guy to keep an eye on next season who will be coming off red shirt is Zack Zavatsky (184). Zavatsky was an impressive 15-1 this year winning three open tournaments and placing second in a fourth. It would be a decent assumption that he will take over at the weight class for the Hokies.
The Hokies have a strong line-up returning. They sent eight wrestlers to nationals this season and only lose one of those in Devin Carter (141). Granted that is nearly a third of their points but they will be seasoned and with Chisko and Zavatsky coming off red shirt they should be deeper. Their two concerns in my opinion will be replacing Carter and finding a consistent solution at 165 pounds. If all of these guys show improvement from this year I see no reason that this team should not improve upon a tenth place finish. The key will also be staying healthy and wrestling a consistent style. They tripped up and their conference tournament but rebounded well at nationals.
Projected Line-up (Note: Just our best guess right now)
125: Joey Dance, Junior (4 points)
133: Kevin Norstrem, RS Sophomore (.5 points)
141: Dennis Gustafson, Junior or Solomon Chisko, RS Freshman
149: Sal Mastriani or Chisko, RS Junior (2 points)
157: Nick Brascetta, RS Senior (15.5 points) All-American, 3rd Place
165: Chad Strube, RS Senior
174: Zach Epperly, RS Sophompre (8.5 points) All-American, 7th Place
184: Zack Zavatsky, RS Freshman
197: Jared Haught, RS Sophomore (.5 points)
285: Ty Walz, RS Junior (6.5 points) All-American, 7th Place