Host Virginia Tech, led by junior Devin Carter who was named the ACC’s Most Valuable Wrestler, won three of the first four championship bouts and went on to claim its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestling Championship Saturday night at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
The Tournament was the 60th Annual Wrestling Championship held by the ACC.
Before a crowd of over 2,344 fans at Tech’s Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech scored 87 points to outdistance Pitt (67), Virginia (61.5), North Carolina (38.0), Maryland (37.5), NC State (33.5), and Duke (18).
Tech, ranked 16th nationally, and coached by Kevin Dresser, received a boost in their lineup just before the Tournament as Carter, who is 14-0 on the year, was given medical clearance to wrestle after missing more than two months due to the hamstring injury.
The Hokies used strong efforts in the consolation rounds to claim a 10-point lead
In the Tournament heading into the championship round as Chris Moon (165), Nick Vetterlein (184) and Ty Walz (Hwt.) all earned third-place finishes.
“Today, 10 guys came together and had an awesome day,” said Dresser . “It is all about how you finish in this sport and we finished the ACC season with an almost-perfect day. We’re going to enjoy this one for a while and then head off to Oklahoma City.
“But the future around here is extremely bright for Virginia Tech wrestling. This crowd today was awesome. They got into it and got loud. I told my guys for the last two weeks that they needed to show some emotion after matches. I needed to see some fist pumps and some flexing and some celebrating because wrestling is a long season and that’s what the end of the season is all about. I knew having it in Cassell Coliseum that it would be extremely loud all day and the fans didn’t disappoint.”
Pitt, ranked 10th nationally in their first season under coach Jason Peters, placed five wrestlers in to the championship finals but failed to capitalize on that advantage as Carter and Zach Neibert at 149 claimed wins over Pitts Edgar Bright and Mikey Racciato, respectively.
The Panthers, who were undefeated in six ACC dual meets to take the ACC regular season title, received only a win from Tyler Wilps (Oakdale, Pa.) at 174 pounds.
North Carolina’s Nathan Kraisser (Ellicott City, Md.) got Pitt off to a rough start by defeating Pitt’s Anthony Zanetta with a 5-3 sudden win in overtime if the 125-pound championship match.
Virginia Tech freshman Dennis Gustafson (Woodbridge, Va.) then set the tone for the Hokies with a dominating 11-0 major decision at 133 over Maryland’s Tyler Goodwin.
The Hokies’ Carter (Christiansburg, Va.), in only his second match since suffering a major hamstring injury which required surgery, captured a hard-fought 6-1 win over Pitt’s Edgar Bright. It was the third ACC title for Carter, a junior, who previously had won league crowns in 2011 and 2012 at 133 pounds. He becomes the 41st wrestler in league history to win three individual titles, the 21st to do so in more than one weight class.
He was named the Tournament MVP in voting by the ACC head coaches.
“It’s a nice, sentimental award, but Dennis Gustafson deserves this as much as I do,” Carter said. “He’s a true freshman who put up bonus points in all three matches and won 11-0 in the finals. Three weeks ago, I thought I’d be a spectactor along with everyone else at this event and to do all this, capped by the Outstanding Wrestler award, is just amazing.”
He becomes the fifth Virginia Tech wrestler and third straight to be named the ACC’s Wrestling Tournament MVP joining Jon Bonilla-Bowman (2007), Matt Epperly (2008), Pete Yates (2012) and Jarrod Garnett (2013).
Virginia Tech’s 149-pound senior Zach Neibert (Dayton, Ohio) kept the momentum going for the Hokies with a dramatic 3-1 sudden victory in overtime against Pitt’s Mikey Racciato to put a strong hold on the championship.
In all, Tech had four individual champions as senior Chris Penny (Virginia Beach, Va.) downed Virginia’s Zach Nye, 10-6, at 197 pounds to join Gustafson, Carter and Neibert in the winners
Virginia’s Nick Sulzer (Cleveland, Ohio), the nation’s No. 2-ranked wrestler at 165 pounds was one of two Cavaliers to claim titles. Sulzer improved to 32-1 on the year with a 7-1 decision over North Carolina sophomore John Michael Staudenmayer. Blaise Butler (Belvidere, Ill.) also captured the title at 157 by downing NC State’s Thomas Gantt, 3-2.
Maryland Jimmy Sheptock (Northhampton, Pa.), the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds joined Carter in winning his third ACC wrestling title, when he took a 3-1 decision of Pitt’s Max Thomusseit. Thomusseit entered the Tournament ranked fifth nationally. Sheptock captured the 174-pound conference title in 2012, then won in 2013 at 184. Sheptock improved to 27-0 on the year with the win, his second of the year against Thomusseit. He is the 42nd ACC wrestler to win three individual titles and the 22nd to do it in more than one weight class.
NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowski (Delanson, N.Y.), the nation’s third-ranked heavyweight, continued his winning ways, downing two-time ACC champion Spencer Myers, 10-4, in the final match of the night. Gwiazdowksi is now 37-2 on the year.
Both the ACC individual champions and runners-up were also named to the All-ACC wrestling team and a total of 34 ACC wrestlers earned automatic bids to this year’s NCAA Championship, which will be held March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Ok.
ACC Team Results
1. Virginia Tech , 87
2. Pitt, 67
3. Virginia, 61.5
4. North Carolina, 38.0
5. Maryland, 37.5
6. NC State, 33.5
7. Duke, 18.0
ACC Individual Championship Results
125—Nathan Kraisser (UNC) d. Anthony Zanetta (Pitt), 5-3, sudden victory OT
133—Dennis Gustafson (VT) major decision over Tyler Goodwin (Md.), 11-0
141—Devin Carter (VT) d. Edgar Bright (Pitt), 6-1
149—Zach Neibert (VT) d. Mikey Racciato (Pitt), 3-1, sudden victory OT
157—Blaise Butler (UVa) d. Tommy Gantt (NCS), 3-2
165—Nick Sulzer (UVa) d. John Staudenmayer (UNC), 7-1
174—Tyler Wilps (Pitt) d. Stephen Doty (UVa), 7-2
184—Jimmy Sheptock (Md.) d. Max Thomusseit (Pitt), 3-1.
197—Chris Penny (VT) d. Zach Nye (UVa), 10-6
Hwt.—Nick Gwiazdowski (NCS) d. Spencer Myers (Md.), 10-4.