By Jason Bryant
We put the last two TOM Duals of the Week up to a fan vote on Twitter and this was the second-highest vote getter. Virginia Tech will make its second trip to Columbus, Ohio in as many weeks to take on the host Ohio State Buckeyes. The two teams didn’t meet at last week’s EAS Sports Nutrition/NWCA National Duals. Virginia Tech lost to second-seeded Cornell, while Ohio State fell to top-seeded Minnesota in the semis and beat Oklahoma for third.
Virginia Tech has recruited Ohio well under Kevin Dresser’s tenure, so it will be a homecoming (again) of sorts for a couple of Hokies.
Ohio State leads the all-time series between the two schools 13-1, with Virginia Tech last winning in December of 2004. Ohio State’s won three in a row, including last season’s 23-10 win in Blacksburg. The dual will feature 12 nationally-ranked wrestlers with four projected matchups featuring a pair of ranked wrestlers.
We’re also going to give WrestleStat a run through. It’s a new site in development, but since it’s pulling data from the NWCA Scorebook, it’s the same information I’d be using, so we’re going to see how much it helps with the statistical details.
No. 16 Virginia Tech (18-4) at No. 11 Ohio State (12-5)
WHERE: St. John Arena, Columbus, Ohio
WHEN: Sunday, February 23, 2 p.m. Eastern
WATCH: Big Ten Digital Network
(Subject to change, rankings by TOM)
125: #20 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) vs. #17 Nick Roberts (Ohio State)
133: #20 Dennis Gustafson (Virginia Tech) vs. #8 Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State)
141: Erik Spjut (Virginia Tech) vs. #3 Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
149: #14 Zach Neibert (Virginia Tech) vs. #20 Ian Paddock (Ohio State)
157: Sal Mastriani (Virginia Tech) vs. Randall Languis (Ohio State)
165: #20 Chris Moon (Virginia Tech) vs. Joe Grandominico (Ohio State)
174: Austin Gabel/John Dickson (Virginia Tech) vs. #11 Mark Martin (Ohio State)
184: #16 Nick Vetterlein (Virginia Tech) vs. #10 Kenny Courts (Ohio State)
197: Chris Penny (Virginia Tech) vs. #4 Nick Heflin (Ohio State)
285: Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) vs. Nick Tavanello (Ohio State)
125: A pair of 20-win freshmen will take to the mat as redshirt freshman Nick Roberts will face true freshman Joey Dance. Roberts beat Dance 4-0 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Dance has won three of his last four, with the only loss coming to top-ranked Nahshon Garrett of Cornell. Roberts has been up-and-down, but did sweep four opponents at the National Duals, including wins over Minnesota’s Sam Brancale and Hofstra’s Jamie Franco. Roberts has pretty good matwork and can score points on tilts, but still might be a bit small for the weight. Dance is solid on his feet and even took down Garrett at the National Duals. Even with Roberts’ win over Dance in December, leaning towards the upset (on paper). Both are also past members of the U.S. Junior World Team.
Pick: Dance by decision.
133: Since coming off redshirt, Ohio State sophomore Johnni DiJulius won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and peaked at No. 2 in TheOpenMat.com individual rankings at 133 pounds. DiJulius slid down the rankings after losses to Michigan’s Rossi Bruno and Purdue’s Cashe Quiroga. Gustafson, a true freshman who had his redshirt pulled midway through the year, has had some ups and downs, but even with those downs, he did pick up a nice major decision victory last weekend against Chattanooga’s Nick Soto. If looking at common opponents, DiJulius has the edge, beating Kent State’s Mac McGuire twice. McGuire majored Gustafson at the Virginia Duals. For Gustafson to stay in the match, he must stay away from DiJulius’ Kelly series, which has been his bread and butter. A little too much in the way of experience for DiJulius.
Pick: DiJulius by decision.
141: After the injury to Devin Carter, Virginia Tech’s Erik Spjut took one for the team and moved up to 141 pounds. He’s opponent is two-time NCAA champion Logan Stiever. While Spjut is stingy and doesn’t give up a ton of bonus points, he’ll have to keep Stieber away from the top position, which is much easier said than done. At 21-1, the only match that hasn’t seen Stieber score bonus points was his loss to Penn State’s Zain Retherford. Stieber’s piled up eight falls, eight technical falls and five major decisions.
Pick: Stieber by technical fall
149: Ohio native Zach Neibert has seen modest success after moving up to 149 pounds. An All-American last season at 141, Neibert is coming off a 3-1 weekend at the National Duals with one of those wins over another All-American Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State. Paddock qualified for the NCAA championships last season at 149 pounds and has been on the bottom half of the Top 20 most of the season. Both have lost nail-biters to Cornell’s Chris Villalonga. Both have a common opponent in Michigan’s Eric Grajales. Paddock’s split with Grajales, while Neibert lost to Grajales at the Midlands. This one has 5-4 written all over it.
Pick: Neibert by decision.
157: A true swing match as this is one of two matches without either team putting out a nationally-ranked wrestler. Virginia Tech true freshman Sal Mastriani has taken his lumps this year and has lost his last four matches. Randall Languis has been serviceable this year and comes in with an 18-19 record. Mastriani has the best win, a fall over Kent State’s Ian Miller, but Languis has put himself in a position to win close matches … he just has to win them. It’ll be a boost for either wrestler, as Languis has lost eight of his last 11 matches. The Hokies need this one. Toss a coin. It comes up heads.
Pick: Languis by decision
165: Only twice this season has Virginia Tech’s Chris Moon put up bonus points in a victory. Only 10 times this season Ohio State’s Joe Grandominico has put up a victory. Moon, ranked 16th, is the only clear cut favorite for Virginia Tech in the dual. Moon’s carved out a very quiet 17-6 record this season. Grandominico just has to keep things close and prevent Moon from even getting in a position to score bonus points. The Hokies absolutely need a bonus win here, but that isn’t likely. It’ll be close, one of those 10-3 types of matches.
Pick: Moon by decision.
174: Ohio State’s Mark Martin only wrestled one match in last week’s National Duals and that was against Oklahoma reserve Derek Geiges. Virginia Tech’s Austin Gabel is rumored to be coming back this week. He hasn’t wrestled since early December at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Hard call in some respects. If the dual is favoring Ohio State, the Buckeyes could send out Jacob Bresciani, who gave up two majors and a tech fall last week. Even if not at 100 percent, Martin’s good enough to beat Gabel, a Colorado native. Where Gabel could be in a favorable position is if Martin’s still hesitant to pull the trigger on his feet, which plays into Gabel’s heavy hands, low-scoring style. Gabel rides well and that could pose a problem for the quicker Martin, especially if he’s only driving on one wheel.
Pick: Martin by decision.
184: It seems like Nick Vetterlein has been around forever. And by forever, we mean like the Carter Administration. The former Wagner College football player has been getting better and better each year, but still doesn’t have a real signature win, unless you count wins over Round of 12’s Tanner Weatherman and Jon Fausey. Courts wrestled on the first day of the National Duals, but not the second. Courts had knee injuries in high school, so the possibility of one remains. If it’s not Courts, it could be Josh Fox, who went 0-2 on Monday at the National Duals. In Cook’s defense, it was against Andrew Howe and Kevin Steinhaus. Much like 174, if Ohio State’s in command, we could see another situation where Courts does’t take the mat. If he does, he’s the favorite.
Pick: Courts by decision
197: Is too much being made of Nick Heflin’s perceived offensive explosion in the last few weeks? Yes. The two-time All-American at 174 pounds moved up to fourth in the rankings this week after recent wins over Travis Rutt and Scott Schiller. Heflin has shown extreme flashes of awesomeness in the past few weeks. Maybe getting thrown to the hardwood floor against Purdue’s Braden Atwood jarred something loose? Virginia Tech’s Chris Penny has been a solid role player for coach Kevin Dresser. While somewhat regarded coming out of high school, Penny was teetering between 197 and 285. He’s been ranked off-and-on this season. While he can give opponents fits, he doesn’t have the arsenal to handle Heflin … especially if Heflin is on. If Heflin gets complacent and finds himself in another 1-1 match late in the third, that could be Penny’s opportunity. Heflin’s in a good position for the postseason when it comes to seeding. A loss to Penny could be problematic.
Pick: Heflin by decision.
285: Ohio native Ty Walz of Virginia Tech is looking to makeup for an ugly 1-3 weekend at last week’s National Duals. He’ll face another Ohio native, Nick Tavanello of Ohio State. Tavanello’s best win this year could be the overtime win over Illinois’ Chris Lopez or his win over Campbell’s Eloheim Palma or perhaps George Mason’s Jake Kettler. Walz has lost four of his last six and has slid out of the national rankings. His best wins this year are over American’s Blake Herrin and Virginia’s Ethan Hayes. Ready for 3-2?
Pick: Walz by decision.
WrestleStat definitely helped with the research aspect, so I’d recommend it.
TOM Prediction: Ohio State 20, Virginia Tech 12
Dual of the Week Standings
Duals: 10-2 (83.33%)
Individual Match Record: 77-25 (75.49%)
Matches not counted (different wrestlers): 18
Exact Outcomes: 56/102 (54.9%)