COLLEGE PARK, Md. – It all came down to one match for sixth-year senior David Marone. The heavyweight needed a win not only to clinch his first ACC title and a trip to the NCAA championships but a win to lock up the team title for the Hokies. The Colorado native didn’t disappoint, rolling to an eight-point win to lift Virginia Tech to its first ACC championship Saturday at the Comcast Center.
Virginia Tech outpointed Virgina 95.5-90.5. Maryland was a distant third with 48.5 points.
Tech trailed Virginia by 10 points heading to the finals and had six wrestlers in the finals to Virginia’s eight, but Jarrod Garnett cut that lead in half quickly with a pin against UNC’s top-seeded Nathan Kraisser at 125 pounds. His pin set the tone as Tech finished with five titles and Garnett, who won his third conference championship, was rewarded with the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler Award. Trailing by five, Virginia got its first title at 133 pounds to stretch the lead back to eight points. After Tech’s Zach Neibert lost in the finals, it set up three consecutive Tech-UVa. matches in the finals. First, Nick Brascetta took care of Derek Valenti at 149 pounds for his second league title and then Jesse Dong won his third ACC championship with a win against Jedd Moore at 157 pounds to cut the lead to one. Pete Yates then won his second ACC title with a win against Nick Sulzer at 165 pounds.
Virginia still had four finalists left, but the first three each lost to a Maryland competitor to keep Tech’s lead at one point with one match left. Marone needed a win to grab the lone NCAA bid and seal the title, but he took all of the drama out of it early, taking down Virginia’s Derek Papagianopoulos in the first period and then two more times to roll to the 8-0 major decision and send the Tech bench streming onto the mat in celebration.
“Toughness prevailed [Saturday night],” Virginia Tech head coach Kevin Dresser said. “Coming back when you have zero room for error is a credit to these 10 guys and my assistants. Great staff. Great team. ACC champions!”
All 10 wrestlers placed for Tech, including eight in the top three. Additionally, nine wrestlers qualified for the NCAA championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Derrick Borlie, who earned a spot for the league, didn’t finish in the top two so he must now wait to see if he gets one of the four wild-card spots at 197 pounds when they are announced on Wednesday.
Before Saturday, Tech had finished second twice (2006 and ’11) in the ACC championships. In the progran’s history, 13 different Hokies have won an ACC crown. Garnett is the fourth Tech wrestler to win Most Outstanding Wrestler honors, joining Jon Bonilla-Bowman (2007; co), Matt Epperly (’08) and Yates (’12).
Virginia Tech’s previous conference tournament title came in 1998 when it won the Colonial Athletic Association crown. The team also won the title in 1993 and won seven Southern Conference titles (1955, ’56, ’58, ’60, ’61, ’62 and ’63). The most NCAA qualifiers Tech has had in one trip to the NCAA championships was eight in 2009, but Tech will surpass that effort with at least nine this year, maybe 10.
Virginia, which also landed nine automatic bids apiece, got a championship from 133-pounder George DiCamillo, who scored 10-9 decision against Duke’s Brandon Gambucci at 133.
Maryland had five automatic qualifiers, including three champions (each beating a Virginia wrestler in the finals): two-time All-American Josh Asper beat Jon Fausey 4-2 at 174 pounds; Jimmy Sheptok beat Stephen Doty 7-2 at 184 pounds; and Christian Boley defeated Mike Salopek 7-2 at 197 pounds. The ACC titles were the second for each wrestler.
North Carolina’s Evan Henderson prevailed in a 5-3 decision against Neibert to win the 141-pound title.