For years, the Atlantic Coast Conference has been known as a perennial hub for some of the NCAA’s best basketball talent. However, the ACC has quickly become one of the most exciting college wrestling conferences. Friday night in Blacksburg, Va., Head Coach Tony Robie and the eighth-ranked Hokies took on Pat Popolizio and the third-ranked Wolfpack in an explosive dual that came down to the final seconds.
Popolizio arrived in Raleigh in 2012 and redefined wrestling at NCSU, taking it from a third-tier sport to one of the most popular campus attractions in just a few years. Since 2012, Popolizio has coached three National Champions, five NCAA Finalists, eighteen All-Americans, fifteen ACC Champions, five ACC Wrestlers of the Year, two ACC Rookies of the Year, three ACC Scholar-Athletes of the Year on top of six straight top twenty finishes in the Division I National Championship tournament. The ascendance of the NSCU has forced the rest of the conference to play catch up with the hirings of 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist Coleman Scott at North Carolina and Robie at Virginia Tech.
While the Wolfpack has made an impact, the Hokies have followed closely. In Robie’s first two seasons at VT, the Hokies have won two ACC championships, had three NCAA All-Americans each season, and produced their first NCAA National Champion Mekhi Lewis. Lewis was also named the NCAA Championships Most Outstanding Wrestler in 2019.
With two top ten programs fighting for at least a share of the ACC, the dual lived up to expectations.
8th ranked Korbin Myers opened the dual with a 13–5 major decision victory for VT over #13 Jarrett Trombley (NCSU). At 141 lbs. #10 Tariq Wilson of NCSU defeated Sam Hillegas 5–1. 11th ranked Bryce Andonian beat the Wolfpack’s Ed Scott 9–5 at 149 lbs. Number 2 raked at 157 lbs. Hayden Hidlay of NCSU scored a decision over Connor Brady 9–4. At 165, #1 Mekhi Lewis defeated #15 Thomas Bullard 5–0. 7th ranked Daniel Bullard of NCSU earned a major decision over Dakota Howard 10–2 at 174 lbs.
184 lbs. featured #2 Hunter Bolen for VT and #4 Trent Hidlay of NCSU. Bolen got the win 2–1 At 197: #16 Isaac Trumble (NCSU) beat Stan Smeltzer 6–5. After #19 Deonte Wilson NCSU heavyweight pulled the upset over #17 John Borst 3–1, North Carolina State went up 16–13 over VT. It seemed as if the Wolfpack would escape with the win.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) February 6, 2021
The final match came down to NCSU’s 4th-ranked Jacob Camacho, and VT’s 8th-ranked Sam Latona. With seconds to go in the third period, Camacho had a 3–1 lead over Latona, who shot in on a sweep single leg. As time ticked down, Camacho tried rolling underneath Latona, who then caught his opponent for a two-point takedown, adding four additional near-fall points to tie the dual at 16–16.
After a quick conference, the referees determined Virginia Tech had secured the criteria victory after counting up the total match points scored between the two teams, 49–48. The Hokies had pulled a huge upset on their home mat.
The Hokies can secure sole possession of the ACC Dual Meet Title if they can beat #15 Pitt, this Friday.