By Bryan Johnston
Virginia Tech Sports Information
BLACKSBURG – Behind four champions and all 10 competitors placing in the top-four of their respective wieght class, the Virginia Tech wrestling squad captured the 2014 ACC Wrestling Championship, held Saturday inside Cassell Coliseum, pulling away from regular-season champion Pittsburgh late to take the team title with 87 points. Pitt finished second with 67 points.
“Today, 10 guys came together and had an awesome day,” Virginia Tech head coach Kevin Dresser said. “It is all about how you finish in this sport and we finished the ACC season with an almost-perfect day. We’re going to enjoy this one for a while and then head off to Oklahoma City. But the future around here is extremely bright for Virginia Tech wrestling. This crowd today was awesome. They got into it and got loud. I told my guys for the last two weeks that they needed to show some emotion after matches. I needed to see some fist pumps and some flexing and some celebrating because wrestling is a long season and that’s what the end of the season is all about. I knew having it in Cassell Coliseum that it would be extremely loud all day and the fans didn’t disappoint.”
Bolstered by the return of Devin Carter to the mat after suffering a torn hamstring in December, the Hokies used the emotion he provided to wrestle a near-flawless day.
Carter, the top seed at 141 pounds, returned to the mat in the semifinals and made quick work of Maryland’s Shyheim Brown, picking up a 23-8 technical fall. In the finals, he got two takedowns to beat second-seeded Edgar Bright of Pittsburgh, 5-1, and seal the team title. Last season, Carter redshirted as the Hokies won the title in College Park, but clinched it this year. He is now 14-0 on the season heading to the NCAA Championships. He is the 41st three-time ACC Champion and the 21st to do it at more than one weight class. He also won Most Outstanding Wrestler honors, becoming the third-straight Hokie to do so.
“It’s a nice, sentimental award, but Dennis Gustafson deserves this as much as I do,” Carter said. “He’s a true freshman who put up bonus points in all three matches and won 11-0 in the finals. Three weeks ago, I thought I’d be a spectactor along with everyone else at this event and to do all this, capped by the Outstanding Wrestler award, is just amazing.”
Gustafson wrestled three matches and picked up three major decisions at 133 pounds to help with bonus points for the Hokies, earning his first conference title in dominating fashion with an 11-0 major decision over Maryland’s Tyler Goodwin. Senior Zach Neibert earned his first ACC title, getting a takedown in sudden victory to knock off Mikey Racciatto of Pitt at 149 pounds. Chris Penny rounded out the fun with his first title, rolling to a 10-7 win over Virginia’s Zach Nye at 197 pounds.
The Hokies also put four others on the podium: Joey Dance (third place at 125 pounds), Chris Moon (third place at 157 pounds), Nick Vetterlein (third place at 184 pounds) and Ty Walz (third place at heavyweight). Sal Mastriani and Austin Gabel both placed fourth to help with team points.
It was the 18th team ACC title for Virginia Tech since joining the conference for the 2004-05 season.
Virginia Tech qualified seven wrestlers for the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships, held March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. At-large bids will be handed out next week.