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GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - NC State, the newly crowned ACC Champion, and third-ranked Virginia Tech will be in the running for the team title at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championship which begins Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Championship begins Thursday at Noon, with the evening session at 7 p.m. On Friday, quarterfinals and consolations begin at 11 a.m., with the semifinals slated for 8 p.m. Saturday’s medal round begins at 11 a.m., with the Championship finals slated for 8 p.m.
All day Thursday and Friday, as well as Saturday morning action will be televised live by ESPNU, with individual mat action also available live on ESPN3.
The Saturday night championships will be televised live by ESPN.
The Wolfpack of Coach Pat Popolizio is ranked second nationally in the latest NWCA national poll (Feb. 23), while the Hokies of Coach Kevin Dresser are ranked third.
No ACC school has won a national team championship in wrestling. The highest team finish in the NCAA Wrestling Championship for an ACC team is a tie for fifth place by North Carolina in 1982. Current ACC school Pitt finished in second place twice in 1954 and 1957, but the Panthers were not members of the league at that time.
State’s highest team finish was a seventh-place effort in 1993 under legendary head coach Bob Guzzo, and the Wolfpack had a 16th-place finish last year.
Tech’s highest NCAA finish was an eighth-place effort in the 2014 Championship. The Hokies finished 10th nationally last year as all six ACC schools finished 28th or higher.
In all, the ACC will send 38 wrestlers to the NCAA Championship, including 34 automatic and four at-large entrants.
A total of 23 of the 38 earned Top 16 seeds, the most by the ACC in its history. The previous high was 16 in last year’s Championship. The ACC also had 15 of its wrestlers seeded among the Top 10 nationally in their respective weight classes, again the most in conference history. That topped the 11 selected for high seeds in 2014, when the conference had seven wrestling teams.
NC State heavyweight and the Most Valuable Wrestler of this year’s ACC Championship, senior Nick Gwiazdowski, is ranked No. 1 in the 285-pound class. Gwiazdowski claimed the national championship the last two years and is seeking to become only the second wrestler in ACC history to garner three national titles, which would match the feat of North Carolina’s T.J. Jaworsky, who captured national championships at 134 pounds in 1993, 1994 and 1995.
The Delanson, New York native enters the Championship having won 84 consecutive matches, the longest current winning streak in the nation. He has a 106-2 record in three seasons at State and is also seeking to become a four-time All-American, having placed eighth in the 2012 Championship while a freshman at Binghamton.
Gwiazdowski has not lost since a 1-0 decision to Minnesota’s Tony Nelson on January 2, 2014, in the Southern Scuffle, a loss he avenged in the NCAA title match that year.
Gwiazdowski will begin his quest Thursday morning against Gage Hutchinson of Eastern Michigan, who is 21-13 on the season.
He leads a Wolfpack lineup that includes six seeded wrestlers and eight overall. He is joined by redshirt senior Thomas Gantt (Cahokia, Illinois), who is seeded second nationally at 157 pounds after winning the ACC title; sophomore Kevin Jack (Danbury, Connecticut), who is seeded third at 141 pounds after also winning the ACC title; Max Rohskopf (Killbuck, Ohio), a junior and another ACC champion, who is seeded fifth at 165 pounds; sophomore Michael Boykin (Coatesville, Pennsylvania), who is seeded 12th at 197 pounds and junior Pete Renda (Topton, Pennsylvania), who is seeded 13th at 184 pounds.
Two other NC State grapplers will also compete: freshman Sean Fausz (Alexandria, Kentucky) at 125 pounds and redshirt freshman Jamal Morris (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) at 133 pounds.
Virginia Tech will send eight wrestlers to the NCAA Championship, all of them seeded and seven seeded eighth or higher.
Leading the Hokies is junior Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Virginia), who is seeded second at 125 pounds, and junior redshirt junior heavyweight Ty Walz (Cleveland, Ohio), who is seeded third at 285.
Dance finished fourth in the NCAAs as a freshman, but lost to Iowa’s Thomas Gilman (this year’s No. 4 seed) in the quarterfinals. Dance is 28-1 on the year, with his only loss coming at the hands of top 125-pound seed Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, a slim 5-4 decision on Dec. 4 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
Walz finished seventh last year in the NCAA Championship and is 23-2 this year, with both losses close decisions to State’s Gwiazdowski: 4-2 in the regular season on February 12, and 5-2 in the ACC Championship on March 6.
Joining them for the Hokies are sophomore Zack Zavatsky (Latrobe, Pa.), who is seeded fifth at 184 pounds; redshirt sophomore Jared Haught (Parkersburg, West Virginia), who is seeded sixth at 197 pounds; freshman Solomon Chishko (Jeanette, Pennsylvania), who is seeded seventh at 141 pounds; redshirt senior Nick Brascetta (St. Paris, Ohio), who is seeded eighth at 157 pounds; redshirt sophomore Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Virginia), who is seeded eighth at 174 pounds; and freshman David McFadden (West Milford, New Jersey), who is seeded 14th at 165 pounds.
Dance and Walz are two of nine ACC wrestlers seeking to repeat as All-Americans, joining Gwiazdowski and Jack of NC State, Brascetta and Epperly of Virginia Tech, Conner Hartmann of Duke (197), as well as Evan Henderson (149) and Ethan Ramos (174) of North Carolina.
Three ACC wrestlers are seeking their third All-American citations, something only 11 other ACC wrestlers have accomplished: Hartmann (Orchard Park, Washington), who earned All-American honors in each of the past two years; Brascetta, who earned All-American honors in 2013 at 149 pounds and last year at 157; and Henderson, who was an All-American in 2013 and 2014 at 141 pounds.
Henderson (New Florence, Pennsylvania) and Ramos (Hawthorne, New Jersey) lead a North Carolina contingent that includes seven wrestlers, four of them top seeds. The Tar Heels, led by first-year head coach Coleman Scott, are ranked 14th nationally.
Henderson finished fourth in the 2014 NCAA Championship at 141, and Ramos finished sixth last year at 165, but is wrestling up a class this year at 174. They are joined by redshirt junior Joey Ward (Cincinnati, Ohio), who is seeded eighth at 141 pounds, and redshirt senior John Michael Staudenmeyer (Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania), who is seeded 11th at 165.
Ward holds a win this season over the No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class, as he defeated top-seeded Dean Heil of Oklahoma State on Feb. 19 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Three other Tar Heels will also be competing in the Championship, including redshirt senior Robert Henderson (New Florence, Pennsylvania) at 157 pounds, redshirt senior Alex Utley (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) at 184 pounds and sophomore Chip Ness (Duluth, Georgia) at 197 pounds.
Hartmann, who finished fifth in 2014 and sixth last year at 197 pounds, heads a Duke squad, coached by Glen Lanham that was ranked 22nd in the nation by InterMat Magazine in its Tournament rankings of March 8.
Blue Devil sophomore Mitch Finesilver (Greenwood Village, Colorado) is seeded 14th at 149 pounds and is joined by his twin brother, sophomore Zach Finesilver, who will compete at 141; as well as redshirt sophomore Jake Faust (Bellville, Ohio) who will compete at 165.
Virginia, coached by Steve Garland, has a contingent of five wrestlers in the Tournament field, including a pair of seeded performers in ACC champion George DiCamillo (Highland Heights, Ohio), a redshirt junior, who is seeded sixth at 133 pounds and redshirt senior Zach Nye (Enola, Pennsylvania), who is seeded 14th at 197 pounds.
Also competing for the Cavaliers are senior Nick Herrmann (Amarillo, Texas) at 125 pounds; redshirt sophomore Andrew Atkinson (Lynchburg, Virginia) at 157 pounds and redshirt senior Patrick Gillen (Shelton, Connecticut), at 285.
Pitt, coached by Jason Peters, will send six wrestlers to the NCAA Championship, led by sophomore Dom Forys (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who is seeded 11th at 133 pounds.
Joining Forys are freshman LJ Bentley (Twinsburg, Ohio), who is wrestling at 125 pounds; redshirt sophomore Cody Wiercioch (Muse, Pennsylvania) at 165; freshman TeShan Campbell (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) at 174; redshirt senior Nick Bonaccorsi (Bethel Park, Pennsylvania) at 197 and redshirt sophomore heavyweight Ryan Solomon (Milton, Pennsylvania).
The opening round of this year’s NCAA Wrestling Championship will feature two matches between ACC opponents, both in the 197-pound weight class. Duke’s Hartmann will face Pitt’s Bonaccorsi in a first-round match on Thursday, while North Carolina’s Ness will battle NC State’s Boykin. Hartmann defeated Bonaccorsi, 4-2, in the dual match between the two foes on January 8. Boykin defeated Ness, 11-6, on January 25 in their dual match, then downed him in a sudden victory decision (3-1), in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship.