NC State, hosts of the ACC wrestling championships at the renovated Reynolds Coliseum, needed to at least place as seeded and probably spring an upset or two to have any hopes of repeating as tournament champions. None of that happened. Virginia Tech claimed five individual titles to run away with the tournament. The Pack placed a distant second with Pitt third.
Things started promisingly for the Pack, with #3 seed Sean Fausz upsetting Virginia’s #2 Jack Mueller to make the final at 125. Jamal Morris did the same 3/2 upset at 133. Neither could bring home a title in the finals, however.
Kevin Jack took home NC State’s lone title of the tournament at 141 pounds, steamrolling through the competition to collect his 26th and 27th consecutive wins on the season. He has only one loss on the year and is a back-to-back ACC champion. Jack was named the tourney’s MVP after outscoring his foes 27-8.
Things started to head south at 149 pounds, where #2 Sam Speno was upset by UNC’s #3 Troy Heilmann. Ditto at 157, where #2 Thomas Bullard fell to Pitt’s #3 Taleb Rahmani, who eventually won the weight class. Speno ended up placing a disappointing fourth, going 1-2 on the day, and will need an at-large bid to make the NCAA tournament. Bullard dropped his second bout to make a quick exit from the tournament.
Brian Hamann, another Pack #2, wrestled to seed and made the finals at 165, where he fell to Pitt’s Te’Shan Campbell, 7-0. Nick Reenan wrestled to seed at 174, going 2-2 to finish fourth. Hamann is in the NCAAs but Reenan will need an at-large bid.
At 184, #1 seed Michael Machiavello brutally pinned UVA’s Will Schany to make the final, but he lost a one-point decision to Tech’s #2 Zachary Zavatsky in the championship. Malik McDonald, seeded #2 at 197, was upset by UNC’s Daniel Chaid on a last-second takedown. Shaken, McDonald was put on his back in the consolation bout and nearly made a quick exit from the event but rallied with five takedowns in the third period to advance to the third-place bout, which he won. Machiavello is through to the NCAAs but McDonald will have to hope for an at-large bid, as the ACC was only allotted two automatic bids at 197.
Somehow the ACC was awarded five spots for the NCAAs at heavyweight, and it’s a good thing, as Mike Kosoy, who came in seeded fourth, took the fifth-place match to advance. They didn’t even wrestle it out for fifth in any other weight class. It’s kind of a feel-good story for Kosoy, a redshirt senior who, after being a starter as a freshman, waited in the wings behind transfer Nick Gwiazdowski for three years before getting another shot.
In all, five State grapplers earned all-ACC honors and six are insured of a trip to the NCAAs. The program also had a top 10 finish in duals rankings. Not bad at all, but a definite drop off from a season ago for Pat Popolizio’s crew.