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TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week – February 8th, 2021

Latona_Sam

original photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

Friday evening, a pair of top-ten teams collided in Blacksburg, Virginia, to determine a share of the ACC’s regular-season championships. #9 Virginia Tech hosted #4 NC State and added another chapter to an already exciting rivalry between the two schools. Last year’s dual between these two teams, a 21-18 victory in favor of the Wolfpack, was one of the season’s best. Friday’s dual is likely to earn the crown this year, thanks largely to the heroics from the Hokies 125 lber, Sam Latona. 

With the dual starting at 133 lbs, it meant a clash between a pair of top-ten ranked 125 lbers could decide the match. Both #5 Jakob Camacho and #7 Latona entered the match with perfect records. The two were familiar with each other as Latona defeated Camacho at the 2020 Southern Scuffle and later in the year in freestyle at Senior Nationals. Camacho’s 2020 ACC Championship and consistent track record gave him the nod in the rankings, while Latona competed as an unattached redshirt during the 2019-20 season. 

In the match itself, Camacho jumped out in front with a takedown in the opening stanza off of an errant Latona shot. After an escape by the Wolfpack 125 lber to start the second period, Sam got on the board with a takedown off a double leg. Latona added an escape of his own in the third to get within a point on the scoreboard. With under ten seconds left in the bout, the Hokie grabbed a single leg. Camacho responded by trying to funk out of the situation, but Latona was ready for the attempt and caught him on his back. Not only did Sam get two points for a takedown, but he also got a set of back points as the clock hit triple zeroes to win 6-4. 

The Latona win tied the team score at 16, which then sent the officials to check the criteria. With both teams winning five bouts and no six-point victories registered, the next criteria was “total match points”. The set of back points for Latona gave his team the edge, 49-48. Virginia Tech’s win snapped a 22-match winning streak for NC State, which was the longest in the nation. They also grabbed their first dual win over the Wolfpack since the 2016-17 season. 

Congratulations to TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week, Sam Latona!

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