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2013 Preseason Preview: Return of stars should lead Virginia Tech to ACC title
Editor’s Note: This is part of WIN’s preseason look at all ten NCAA Division I wrestling conference.
Qualifying Tournament for the NCAA:
March 9, 2013 @ University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
Last Year’s ACC Tournament Championship Finish in Chapel Hill, N.C.:
1. Maryland, 83 points; 2. Virginia 73.5; 3. Virginia Tech, 70.5; 4. NC State, 47.5; 5. North Carolina, 38; 6. Duke, 17.5
Last Year’s ACC Performance in the NCAA Tournament:
The ACC sent 28 wrestlers to the NCAAs in St. Louis, which was two more than in 2011. Overall, the ACC produced four All-Americans, led by a pair of fifth-place finishers from Virginia Tech: Devin Carter (133) and Peter Yates (165). Meanwhile, Maryland (John Asper, 6th at 165) and NC State (Darius Little, 8th at 141) also featured an All-American.
WIN’S 2012-13 ACC TEAM RACE PREDICTION
1. Virginia Tech — While coach Kevin Dresser will not have the service of Devin Carter this season — the junior from Christiansburg who has won two ACC titles and finished fifth in his second NCAA last March, will redshirt in 2013 — the Hokies do feature a returning All-American in 165-pound senior Peter Yates, who was ranked No. 3 in WIN’s preseason poll. Dresser is also happy to welcome back two Hokies not in the line-up at the end of year: 125-pound Jarrod Garnett, who won two ACC titles and appeared in three NCAAs before taking an Olympic redshirt last winter; and 157-pound Jesse Dong, who is 86-18 and has qualified for three NCAAs but has been hampered by injuries, which sidelined him the second half of last season.
2. Maryland — Terp coach Kerry McCoy welcomes back two All-Americans: 165-pound senior Josh Asper, who has finished sixth nationally the past two winters and has compiled a 97-18 mark the past three seasons; and junior heavyweight Spencer Myers, who finished sixth in the 2011 NCAAs before he failed to win a national match last March despite earning a No. 8 seed. The majority of Maryland’s strength comes in the upper weights with the return of 174-pound Jimmy Sheptock, who finished in the Round of 12 last season and 197-pound Christian Boley, who was 31-3 last winter and was seeded No. 4 at the NCAAs, where he was upset in the first round and failed to place.
3. Virginia — There are no Cavaliers with All-American honors on their resume but coach Steve Garland features five men who are on the doorstep of earning national honors this season. The highest ranked Virginia wrestlers in the preseason are 125-pound senior Matt Snyder, who won the ACC championship last winter, and 165-pound sophomore Nick Sulzer. Each man went 2-2 in last year’s NCAAs. Meanwhile two other notable Cavaliers, with NCAA experience, are moving up one weight: 141-pound Matt Nelson who went 2-2 in St. Louis last March, was away from the varsity mat for four years because of past concussions; and 174-pound junior Jon Fausey, who reached the Round of 12 last March. Garland also welcomes back 149-pound senior Derek Valenti, who redshirted last winter after claiming eighth nationally in 2011.
4. NC State — The Wolfpack welcomes a new coach in Pat Popolizio, who spent six years rebuilding a defunct Binghamton program which produced four All-Americans and a No. 14 finish in last year’s NCAAs, which also earned him Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year honors. In coming to Raleigh, he does not have any returning All-Americans after the graduation of eighth-place finisher Darius Little at 141 pounds. He does inherit two wrestlers who qualified for last year’s NCAAs: 125-pound sophomore Coltin Fought (28-11) and 149-pound junior Matt Nereim (21-13). But the new coach does feature a returning All-American in sophomore heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski, who finished eighth for Popolizio last winter and followed his coach to Tobacco Road.
5. North Carolina — Coach C.D. Mock begins his ninth year for his alma mater and the Tar Heels’ first national champion (1982) has elevated the status of an even-more decorated UNC wrestler in two-time champion (1995 and ’96) Cary Kolat, who became the associate head coach this past summer. Together, they feature two wrestlers who competed in last year’s NCAAs: 141-pound sophomore Evan Henderson and 157-pound Corey Mock, the son of the head coach.
6. Duke — Glen Lanham, the former Oklahoma State wrestler and long-time assistant coach at North Carolina, Purdue and Duke, was named the Blue Devils 12th head coach in the 85-year history of wrestling in Durham. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of wrestling tradition in this basketball-rich university, which has had just one wrestler (heavyweight Konrad Dudziak, a 2009 NCAA finalist) earn All-American honors. But Lanham helped send two wrestlers to the NCAAs the past two years as an assistant: senior Diego Bencomo (184) and Tanner Hough (141), who return this season.