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No. 2 NC State, No. 3 Virginia Tech Are Pre-Championship Favorites
ESPN3 To Stream Live the Entire Championship
Greensboro, N.C. (theACC.com) -- This Sunday when the Atlantic Coast Conference holds its 62nd Annual Wrestling Tournament at Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia, many of the best collegiate wrestlers in the nation will be on display as conference honors and national seeds hang in the balance for the six competing teams and their grapplers.
The Championship will begin at 11 a.m. with first-round action and will continue throughout the day with the semifinals at 1 p.m., the consolation semifinals at 3:30 p.m., the consolation finals at 5 p.m. and the championship finals at 7 p.m.
Tickets, priced at $10 for adults and $5 for children and senior citizens, may be purchased by going to the link listed above. ACC students are admitted free with a valid school ID.
Virginia will be hosting the Wrestling Championship for the 13th time and the first since 2011. North Carolina leads all current ACC schools with 17 championships, followed by NC State (14), Virginia (5) and Virginia Tech (2).
No fewer than five wrestlers who captured individual titles in 2015 will be looking to repeat as champions in host Virginia’s George DiCamillo at 133 pounds, Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance (125) and Nick Brascetta (157), Duke’s Conner Hartmann (197) and NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowski (285). But they will face intense competition from a field that includes 36 wrestlers that were nationally-ranked in the latest NCAA Coaches rankings.
Brascetta, a senior from St. Paris, Ohio, has a chance to become just the ninth wrestler in ACC history to win four individual wrestling titles. Brascetta, seeking to repeat at 157 pounds this year, captured ACC titles in 2012 and 2013 at 149 pounds. Brascetta is seeded second behind NC State’s Tommy Gantt at 157. Gantt is ranked fourth nationally, Brascetta seventh.
Gwiazdowski, a senior from Delanson, N.Y. and DiCamillo, a junior from Highland Heights, Ohio, will each be seeking their third individual titles. Gwiazdowski won the 285-pound class in each of the past two years, while DiCamillo won the 133-pound class in 2013 and 2015.
In the team competition, two of the top three, and three of the top 14 teams nationally will be competing for the title. Virginia Tech, ranked third nationally in the latest NWCA poll, will be looking to claim its third ACC title in four years. The Hokies, coached by Kevin Dresser, feature a lineup of eight nationally-ranked wrestlers, and their major challenge should come from NC State.
Virginia Tech captured the ACC regular season dual match title, with a perfect 5-0 record, which includes a 19-14 win over NC State on Feb. 12. But over the last seven years, the ACC regular season champion has only won the Championship on two occasions.
The Wolfpack, coached by Pat Popolizio, are ranked second nationally after posting a 23-1 regular season record, the only loss coming at the hands of the Hokies. NC State, whose 23 dual match victories are an ACC record, are seeking their first ACC title since 2007. State did capture the ACC championship in 2004, which was also held in Charlottesville.
NC State features a lineup led by Gwiazdowski, the two-time national champion at 285, and also features eight nationally ranked wrestlers, including five ranked in the Top 10 of their respective weight categories. Gwiazdowski will put his 82-match consecutive win streak--the longest current streak in the nation--on the line against a field that also includes Virginia Tech’s Ty Walz, who is ranked second nationally.
The Wolfpack enter Sunday’s competition having defeated fifth-ranked Missouri and second-ranked Iowa in successive dual matches.
While the team competition will likely center on the Hokies and the Wolfpack, all six ACC schools will have a chance to put their mark on the tournament.
North Carolina, coached by first-year head coach Coleman Scott, enters the Championship ranked 14th nationally and led by a lineup of six nationally-ranked wrestlers, including three in the top eight in their weight classes in Ethan Ramos (fourth at 174), Joey Ward (sixth at 141) and Evan Henderson (eighth at 149).
Host Virginia, coached by Steve Garland, which is the reigning ACC champion having won this event at Pitt last year, features the favorite at 133 pounds in DiCamillo, as well as senior Zach Nye at 197 pounds, who is ranked 15th nationally. Nye is one of seven 2015 ACC runner-ups who return this year in search of a title that includes the Cavaliers’ Nick Hermann (126) and Andrew Atkinson (157).
Duke, coached by Glen Lanham, features four nationally ranked wrestlers, including the favorite at 197 in Hartmann, a two-time All-America who is ranked fifth nationally. Hartmann was 5-0 in the ACC dual mat competition. The other ranked Blue Devils include the twin-brother tandem of Mitch Finesilver (149) and Zach Finesilver (141) and Jake Faust (165).
Pitt, coached by Jason Peters, finished second at last year’s Championships. The Panthers feature a lineup of five ranked wrestlers led by Dom Forys at 133. Forys is ranked 19th nationally in the most recent coaches rankings, and is likely the strongest challenger to UVA’s DiCamillo for the 133-pound title. Pitt heavyweight Ryan Solomon is ranked 18th with Cody Wiercioch (23th, 165) and TeShan Campbell (29th, 174) also nationally ranked.
ACC Wrestling Championship Preview by weight classes:
125—Virginia Tech junior Joey Dance is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champion after going 5-0 in ACC duals and being ranked third nationally. But he will face challenges from three others who are nationally ranked in the recent coaches rankings in last year’s runner-up in Nick Herrmann of Virginia (28th nationally), who is joined by LJ Bentley (25th) of Pitt and Sean Fausz of NC State (20th).
133—Virginia‘s DiCamillo is the favorite to repeat as ACC champion after posting a 4-0 mark in ACC duals. Pitt’s Dom Forys, who was 5-0 in league competition but did not wrestle against DiCamillo, looks to be the prime contender, but NC State’s Jamal Morris (27th) is also ranked nationally and Virginia Tech’s Dennis Gustafson won this event in 2014.
141—One of the most competitive weight classes in the ACC with four nationally-ranked wrestlers competing for the title, including three in the top eight. NC State’s Kevin Jack, last year’s runner-up and ranked third nationally this year and 5-0 in league competition, looks to be the favorite. North Carolina’s Joey Ward (No. 6 nationally), who defeated the nation’s No. 1 wrestler at 141 pounds in Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil, Virginia Tech’s Solomon Chishko (ranked eighth nationally) and Duke’s Zach Finesilver (No. 23), will provide stiff opposition.
149—North Carolina’s Evan Henderson, the 2013 ACC champion at 141 pounds and ranked eighth nationally, looks to be the favorite here, but Duke’s Mitch Finesilver has improved throughout the season and is now ranked 12th nationally. The two did not meet during the regular season. Virginia Tech’s Sal Mastriani and NC state’s Beau Donahue could be in the running as well.
157—NC State senior Thomas Gantt, ranked fourth nationally in the most recent coaches rankings, looks to be the favorite, but don’t count out Virginia Tech senior Nick Brascetta, a three-time ACC champion. Gantt narrowly defeated Brascetta (4-1) during the regular season. Virginia’s Andrew Atkinson, last year’s runner-up to Brascetta, is ranked 22nd nationally and should also be a factor, wrestling in front of a home crowd.
165—A crowded field with five wrestlers nationally ranked, led by NC State’s Max Rohskopf, who is sixth nationally. Rohskop was 4-0 against the field, but did not face Duke’s Jake Faust in the regular season. Faust, 18th ranked, was 4-1 during the regular season losing only to Pitt’s Cody Wiercioch, was is ranked 23rd. North Carolina’s John Michael Staudenmeyer was ranked 11th nationally, but lost to both Rohskopf and Faust, while Virginia Tech’s David McFadden is ranked 13th nationally, but is just 1-4 against the field.
174—According to InterMat, this class feature two of the top four wrestlers in the nation in Virginia Tech’s Zach Epperly (2nd) and North Carolina’s Ethan Ramos (4th). Both are ranked lower in the coaches rankings, with Ramos ranked fourth and Epperly 10th. Both were All-Americans a year ago, though Ramos wrestled a class lower at 165. Ramos was 5-0 against the field this year, but did not face Epperly, who was 4-0. Pitt’s TeShan Campbell and NC State’s Nicky Hall should also be in the running.
184—This class features three nationally-ranked wrestlers in Virginia Tech Zach Zavatsky (sixth), NC State’s Pete Renda (14th) and North Carolina’s Alex Utley (19th). Zavatsky is 5-0 against the field, but the Wolfpack’s Renda is coming off a pair of impressive wins over nationally-ranked foes, with his only league loss being a 9-5 decision to Zavatsky. North Carolina’s Utley is ranked 19th nationally and his only league losses were close ones to Zavatsky (6-2) and Renda (11-7).
197—Duke’s Conner Hartmann, a two-time All-American and defending ACC champion, is the favorite, after going 5-0 against the field, but this is as talented a field as there is in this Championship. Virginia Tech’s Jared Haught, injured a good part of the year, is healthy now and was ranked sixth nationally with his only league loss coming to Hartmann in a close, 2-0 decision. Virginia’s Zach Nye, last year’s runner-up, is ranked 15th nationally, while NC State’s Michael Boykin is ranked 14th in the nation.
285—One of the most dominant wrestlers in ACC history, heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski of NC State was ranked the fourth most dominant wrestler in the nation this week by the NCAA. While Gwiazdowski pinned his way to the title last year, his 5-0 mark against the field was accomplished with just one fall this year, though he did have two technical falls and a major decision. Virginia Tech’s Ty Walz is ranked second nationally and his only loss was a 4-2 decision to Gwiazdowski. The ACC Tournament could be a preview of the NCAA Championship. Pitt’s Ryan Solomon and Virginia’s Pat Gillen are also in the mix