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March 9, 2013
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – After knocking at the door of an ACC Wrestling Championship the previous four seasons, Virginia Tech finally brought home the gold on Saturday night.
Buoyed by five victories in the weight class championships, the Hokies overtook Virginia down the stretch to bring home the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference title since joining the league prior to the 2004-05 season.
Despite losing just one dual match in ACC regular-season action since the start of the 2009 season, the Hokies had repeatedly seen the ACC Championship elude them come March. But head coach Kevin Dresser’s nationally seventh-ranked team met the challenge Saturday night at the Comcast Center, as senior 125-pound wrestler Jarrod Garnett claimed Most Valuable Wrestler honors and Virginia Tech built a wave of momentum for the NCAA Championships, which are set for March 21-23 at Des Moines, Iowa.
Virginia Tech finished with 95.5 team points, followed by Virginia at 90.5 Host school Maryland was third at 48.5, followed by North Carolina at 45, NC State at 30 and Duke at 26.
Virginia held a 10-point lead over the Hokies heading into the final round and had eight wrestlers competing in the 10 weight class championships to Virginia Tech’s six.
In matchup of top-10 ranked wrestlers at 125, Garnett avenged a regular-season loss to North Carolina’s No. 7 Nathan Kraisser. Garnett scored a pin at the 5:58 mark to earn his third career ACC title and draw the Hokies closer.
Virginia’s George DiCamillo countered with a 10-9 decision over Duke’s Brandon Gambucci at 133, and Virginia Tech missed out on a chance to make up ground at 141, where North Carolina’s Evan Henderson prevailed in a 5-3 decision over the Hokies’ Zach Neibert.
But in the first of four head-to-head meetings between Virginia and Virginia Tech finalists, Hokie 149-sophomore Nick Brascetta successfully defended his 149-pound title with a 5-1 decision over Derek Valenti. Then, at 157, Virginia Tech’s Jesse Dong claimed his third career ACC title with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Jedd Moore.
That allowed Virginia Tech to close the gap in the team scoring to two points (90.5 to 88.5). The 165-pound weight class offered yet another head-to-head matchup between 2012 ACC Championship Most Valuable Wrestler Pete Yates of Virginia Tech and the Cavaliers’ Nick Sulzer.
Once again, the Hokies prevailed, as Yates claimed a 4-1 decision to push Virginia Tech into a one-point team lead. A heavyweight match between Virginia Tech’s David Marone and Virginia’s Derek Papagianopoulos remained, but not before the Cavaliers faced three head-to-head matches against Maryland.
The Terps played the spoiler role to perfection, as Josh Asper (174), Jimmy Sheptock (184) and Christian Boley (197) all won by decision. The ACC titles were the second for each wrestler and left Virginia Tech still clinging to its slimmest of leads heading into the heavyweight bout.
With the outcome literally hanging in the balance, Marone left no room for doubt with an 8-0 victory that clinched both the ACC title for the Hokies and an automatic NCAA berth for the Virginia Tech senior.
Each of the 10 ACC weight class champions, and the runner-up in each weight class except for 285, were among the 30 conference wrestlers that automatically qualified for the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championship, scheduled March 21-23 at Wells Fargo Arena. The NCAA will announce additional at-large qualifiers on Wednesday (March 13).
Virginia Tech and Virginia landed nine automatic bids apiece. Maryland followed with five, North Carolina four, NC State two and Duke one.
Note: The Atlantic Coast Conference donated 20 books to the reading program at College Park’s Paint Branch Elementary School during this year’s championship. Principal Emmett Hendershot accepted on behalf of the school.