Pictured (L to R): Pitt’s 2022 ACC champions Cole Matthews (141), Nino Bonaccorsi (197), and Jake Wentzel (165) at the 2022 ACC Wrestling Champions in Charlottesville, Virginia, Sunday, March 6, 2022. Image courtesy of Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES).
As anticipated, Division I Wrestling’s Championship Weekend (March 4-6) did not disappoint. There were many noteworthy headlines during the first weekend of postseason wrestling. The ACC certainly had its fair share of developments in Charlottesville.
Here are eight takeaways (in no particular order) from the 2022 ACC Championships in Charlottesville last weekend.
Jackob Camacho finally beats Sam Latona
Camacho and Latona always deliver fairly close and compelling matchups. That said, the Virginia Tech Hokie has always gotten the edge over the NC State standout. Latona was 4-0 in head-to-head matchups against Camacho. Well, Jackob finally ended his winless streak, beating Latona, 3-1, with an ACC title on the line.
Cole Matthews’ stellar season continues
Pitt’s Cole Matthews has always had talent, that has never been debated. That said, Matthews is wrestling on a different level than he ever has in a Panther singlet. After a 4-2 start, the Pitt 141-pounder has rattled off 13 straight wins, including five falls and a pair of major decisions. His lengthy winning streak resulted in the first ACC title of his career. After watching Matthews struggle through the 2021 NCAAs in Minneapolis with a torn ACL, it’ll be fun to see what Cole can do this postseason, fully healthy and feeling supremely confident.
Surprisingly, no Jake Wentzel versus Thomas Bullard finals at 165
Jake Wentzel is a two-time ACC champion, a two-time All-American, and a 2021 NCAA finalist. That said, NC State’s Thomas Bullard has given Wentzel serious problems throughout Wentzel’s entire career. However, on Senior Day, Wentzel secured a first career win over the Wolfpack grappler, 4-3 in overtime, controlling the match for a full seven minutes. Sadly, that rematch did not materialize at ACCs this season. Virginia’s Justin McCoy upset Bullard to make the ACC finals. The Panther beat the Caviler 7-0.
Hayden Hidlay misses ACC history
Not only did Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis avenge an earlier loss to NC State’s Hayden Hidlay, but also, he prevented the Wolfpack veteran from making history last Sunday in Charlottesville at the 2022 ACC Championships. Hidlay fell 3-2 in the semifinals to Lewis. With that, Hayden lost his opportunity to be a rare five-time ACC champ. He also suffered his first-ever loss at an ACC Championships event. Still, the lighter of the Hidlay brothers has a career record of 127-13, and he will be a title contender in the toughest weight at NCAAs next week.
Trent Hidlay stormed to another ACC title with ease
In 2022, Trent Hidlay has run through his competition. He is 17-0 with an 88% bonus rate on the season. The only regular decisions he has had in 2022 were a 6-0 decision against Iowa’s Abe Assad and a tight 2-1 decision over Virginia Tech’s Hunter Bolen. Hidlay improved to 3-2 over Bolen, having won three in a row. Nationally, 184 has some serious talent with Aaron Brooks, Myles Amine, Hidlay, Parker Keckeisen, and others. Let’s see what Hidlay can do against some tougher non-conference foes.
Bonaccorsi avenges his losses to Trumble
In 2021, then true freshman Isaac Trumble made waves when he earned an upset win, 6-1, over Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi, an NCAA runner-up later that year in Minneapolis. Well, in 2022, Trumble proved that his “upset” win from 2021 was not a fluke. In 2022, Trumble beat Bonaccorsi again, 2-0. Well, in their most important match to date, one with a 2022 ACC finals appearance up for grabs, Bonaccorsi got the win via shutout, 2-0. I’m sure we’ll see this budding rivalry continue next year in 2022-23.
Also noteworthy, at ACCs, Nino improved to 5-0 in his career over Virginia’s Jay Aiello, a 2020 ACC champ in his own right. The point is, it’s hard to remain undefeated against a quality guy like Aiello when you wrestle each other so often.
“Wow! What did I just watch?”
Often, there is that moment during a match or event where you say to yourself, “Woah, did that just happen?” For me, that moment occurred in an opening-round match between North Carolina’s Max Shaw and Virginia Tech’s Dakota Howard at 197. Here’s how it went down: Howard got a late takedown to earn the lead in the third and rode until the clock said 0:59 in riding time. Then, Shaw escaped to tie it and to force extras. However, an official review revealed Shaw had 1:00 of riding time exactly. Thus, the Tar Heel beat the Hokie 10-9 on riding time. An absolutely brutal ending. Neither will wrestle in Detroit next week.
NC State wins its fourth straight conference crown
As you may have noticed, NC State wrestlers have been referenced quite a bit in this article so far. Well, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given that NC State earned its fourth straight ACC Championship Sunday night in Charlottesville. In doing so, NC State had all 10 wrestlers post a podium finish (top-three). As a result, all 10 wrestlers also automatically qualified for the 2022 NCAA Championships in Detroit. Impressively, ACC’s top team also had seven finalists and four conference champions. Will Pat Popalizio’s squad earn a team trophy in Detroit? It’s certainly possible! The Pack is one of few teams to qualify every weight, which includes five top-five seeds.