The NCAA wrestling season is finally upon us and with its return comes the return of TOM’s NCAA Wrestling Dual of the Week! We will open the season in Blacksburg, Virginia, Saturday, November 5th, as the Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Edinboro Fighting Scots. The match is scheduled for 1 pm eastern and can be watched live online on ESPN3.
Virginia Tech finished fourth in the country a year ago, their highest national finish ever. Though they have to find a replacement for three-time All-American Nick Brascetta, they return five All-Americans and seven national qualifiers in all. However, one of those, David McFadden, may redshirt as he recovers from knee surgery. Even without McFadden, this is a team looking to be right back in the top five again this year.
Edinboro struggled a bit last year and finished without an All-American for the first time since 1996. They do return four national qualifiers and feature a lot of young talent. This will be a big early test for them but, even if they do lose badly, expect them to progress quite a bit from November to March.
Virginia Tech is the big favorite here, but Edinboro could keep it close for a while if they start at 125 and the Fighting Scots win the close ones. From 133 to 165, Edinboro has to feel like they can compete in every match. They would probably need to win at least four of the five to have a chance to win the dual. For Virginia Tech, that stretch includes all of their lineup question marks right now so they’ll be hoping to see their representatives take a step forward and win decisively. With Ty Walz at the All-Star Classic, Edinboro becomes the favorite at 285. If they can get there within six points of the Hokies, they have a chance for the upset.
In the last meeting between these two, the Hokies went on the road to beat Edinboro 29-7 on February 7th, 2016.
No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. No. 21 Edinboro
125: #4 Joey Dance (Va Tech) vs. #14 Sean Russell (Edinboro)
133: Dominic Latona (Va Tech) vs. Korbin Myers (Edinboro)
141: Dennis Gustafson (Va Tech) vs. Tyler Vath (Edinboro)
149: #7 Solomon Chishko (Va Tech) vs. #9 Patricio Lugo (Edinboro)
157: Sal Mastriani (Va Tech) vs. Chase Delande (Edinboro)
165: Mike Civarro (Va Tech) vs. #9 Austin Matthews (Edinboro)
174: #2 Zach Epperly (Va Tech) vs. Ty Schoffstall (Edinboro)
184: #8 Zack Zavatsky (Va Tech) vs. Dakota Geer or Dylan Reynolds (Edinboro)
197: #3 Jared Haught (Va Tech) vs. Shawn Reynolds or Gordon Truesdale (Edinboro)
285: Dylan Cook (Va Tech) vs. #16 Billy Miller (Edinboro)
Fourth-ranked Joey Dance (Va Tech) is as good as anyone at this weight and is out to prove that missing the podium at nationals the last two years was a cruel aberration. That mission starts now with a solid opponent in 14th ranked Sean Russell (Edinboro). Dance beat Russell 6-2 last year and that result fits with the type of match these guys wrestle when faced with quality opponents. Expect a low scoring, controlled decision for Dance here.
Pick: Dance by Decision, 3-0 Va Tech
Korbin Myers (Edinboro) redshirted a year ago, then promptly knocked off the two men who filled the spot last season, Anthony Rivera and Tony Recco in wrestle-offs. This wasn’t unexpected, but Myers put some distance between himself and his teammates. He is young but quite talented. I’m not sure who we will see from Virginia Tech. True freshman Dom Latona (Va Tech) topped another true freshman, Tony Lattanze, in the intrasquad and Dennis Gustafson was up at 141. If Latona is the man, he should get the nod here. If the situation isn’t quite settled yet, we may see someone else to preserve the possibility of a redshirt. Latona is another young talent and it would be interesting to see him against Myers. If those two take the mat, Myers is probably a slight favorite, but a Latona win isn’t out of the question.
Pick: Myers by Decision, 3-3
Dennis Gustafson (Va Tech) seems likely to start the season as the 141-pound starter for the Hokies, though there are a pair of true freshmen nipping at his heals. He never quite hit his stride last year coming off a knee injury, but should be healthy and ready to go this year. He’ll face Tyler Vath (Edinboro) who struggled through his true freshman year and will be looking to improve in 2016-17. Gustafson is a solid favorite here and bonus points are in play.
Pick: Gustafson by Major Decision, 7-3 Va Tech
The main event in this dual features ninth-ranked Patricio Lugo (Edinboro) against 2016 All-American and seventh-ranked Solomon Chishko (Va Tech). Lugo very nearly became an All-American in his true freshman season, reaching the round of 12 before falling to Lavion Mayes (Missouri). Chishko finished sixth, down at 141, as a freshman, though he had the benefit of a redshirt year to prepare. This will be a tremendous clash and it will tell us a lot about whether Chishko is a full size 149 or whether he might head back down to 141 at some point. Lugo is capable of getting the win in this one, but Chishko is the favorite.
Pick: Chishko by Decision, 10-3 Va Tech
A pair of experienced wrestlers who had to best multiple challengers just to earn their spot in the lineup square off at 157 pounds. Sal Mastriani (Va Tech) was pushed up to 157 by Chishko and then had incoming transfer Ryan Blees, among others, challenge him for the spot. He beat all of them and the senior will be looking to get back to his 2014-15 form when he was 24-12 and reached the round of 12 at NCAAs. Chase Delande (Edinboro) was pushed out of the lineup a year ago by Austin Matthews, but with Matthews moving up, the senior is back in the lineup after emerging from a group of five hopefuls. Delande was a solid wrestler two years ago for the Fighting Scots so this isn’t going to be an easy win for Mastriani. If Edinboro is harboring thoughts of an upset, this is one they will be expecting to win.
Pick: Mastriani by Decision, 13-3 Va Tech
Ninth-ranked Austin Matthews (Edinboro) is the only clear favorite for Edinboro. Matthews has won two EWL titles at 157 pounds, the first at Clarion in 2014 and then last year with Edinboro. Now he enters the season in the top-10 and will be looking to crack the top eight in March. Without David McFadden, Virginia Tech will trot out Mike Civarro to face Matthews. Civarro hasn’t wrestled much in his two years in Blacksburg so it is hard to say how he’ll do. This is asking a lot, though.
Pick: Matthews by Major Decision, 13-7 Va Tech
Two-time All-American and second-ranked Zach Epperly (Va Tech) is the first of four consecutive highly ranked Hokies that close out the lineup. If any team gets to 174 behind against Virginia Tech, it is going to be very difficult to catch them. The man tasked with stopping Epperly will be Ty Schoffstall (Edinboro). Schoffstall has won a lot of matches over the last two seasons, but couldn’t break into the lineup. Now that he has his chance, it will be a baptism by fire. He would do well to avoid bonus points here.
Pick: Epperly by Major Decision, 17-7 Va Tech
Dakota Geer (Edinboro) won the spot in wrestle-offs and, given Edinboro’s willingness to wrestle true freshmen, I’d expect to see him, though redshirt freshman Dylan Reynolds is also an option. Whichever one it is will deal with eighth-ranked Zach Zavatsky (Va Tech) who had himself a fantastic freshman year in 2015-16, reaching the national quarterfinals as the fifth-seed before dropping a pair of matches to Pete Renda (NC State) and Nate Brown (Lehigh) to just miss becoming an All-American. Zavatsky won a lot of matches last year and even beat some good competition comfortably, but didn’t score as much bonus as you might expect from someone with his record. This will be a good chance for him to work on making that a habit, but Geer is no pushover.
Pick: Zavatsky by Decision, 20-7 Va Tech
Third-ranked Jared Haught (Va Tech) was just 16-18 two years ago but really hit his stride last year on his way to a sixth-place finish at the NCAA tournament, which matched his seed. If his progression continues, he could continue to climb the steps of the podium. Edinboro’s 197-pound spot is still unsettled so we could see either Shawn Reynolds or Gordon Truesdale. Neither of these wrestlers posted a winning record last year in limited action. This match-up is a problem for the Fighting Scots.
Pick: Haught by Fall, 26-7 Va Tech
16th-ranked Billy Miller (Edinboro) is going to end a lot of duals with a win for his team. Miller was 29-11 last year as a redshirt freshman and will be one to watch as a low All-American contender if he can continue to improve. With Ty Walz wrestling at the All-Star classic on Saturday, Miller will likely face one of Virginia Tech’s 197 pounders, Jared Haught or Dylan Cook. I expect it to be Cook, leaving Haught in his usual place in the lineup. This puts Miller in a position where he can be aggressive and go for the fall. Still, Cook will be trying to stay away from the big man and wrestle smart. This one will probably either be a fall or decision and I lean towards a decision. If the dual is in the balance, this could be a fun way to finish.
Pick: Miller by Decision, 26-10 Va Tech
TOM DOW Record (2015-16): 9-3
Team Score Prediction
Virginia Tech: 26