photos courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
Friday night, one of the most anticipated DI duals of the season, goes down. It doesn't involve Big Ten teams, or even the Big 12, but it's an intra-ACC clash between #4 NC State and #9 Virginia Tech. Once upon a time, it felt far-fetched to imagine that such highly ranked teams could reside in the ACC, but both programs have become a mainstay in the top-ten nationally. The last time these two teams met in dual competition, the Wolfpack held a #3 national ranking, while the Hokies were #7. What ended up transpiring was one of the best duals of the 2019-20 season. Despite surrendering two pins, NC State emerged victorious, 21-18, in a back-and-forth affair that saw four lead changes. With both squads battling for ACC dual and tournament crowns, this has developed into one of the country's best rivalries. 19 of 20 possible starters currently carry national rankings. Five wrestlers are in the top-five of their respective weights are expected to compete. All of these factors added together make for an instant classic and another chapter in this budding rivalry.
NC State heads north to Blacksburg with the nation's longest active winning streak (22) on the line and a chance to clinch a share of their fourth straight ACC regular-season title. Head coach Pat Popolizio has the opportunity to send out a ranked wrestler in each of the ten weight classes and six of them are currently in the top-ten. Popolizio's team has a 5-0 record and hasn't been seriously tested in 2021. The team's closest contest was a 12-point win over Appalachian State while without the services of All-American Trent Hidlay.
Host Virginia Tech is also undefeated at 7-0. Tony Robie's squad is a good mix of youth and experience, as four of their probable starters are freshmen. While the Hokies will thrive in tournaments with a pair of wrestlers in the top-two nationally, they have proven to be a very formidable squad in dual competition. Virginia Tech is fresh off a 23-9 defeat of #10 North Carolina, a team that had beaten them in each of the previous two seasons.
Here is a weight-by-weight breakdown along with predictions for all ten weights.
125 - #5 Jakob Camacho (NC State) vs. #7 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech)
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