In an anticipated top-10 match up, #7 Missouri will hit the road and take on #9 Virginia Tech this upcoming Sunday afternoon. The dual is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT inside Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Virginia.
This will be the first home dual for the Hokies in the 2022-2023 season (0-1), after dropping their first dual meet by a thread to #4 Ohio State 18-15. Both Virginia Tech and Missouri only have one dual loss so far on the year, which have been to top-5 ranked teams. On Nov. 17th, Missouri dropped a close and exciting dual to #5 Arizona State 19-17, however the Tigers now have two wrestlers ranked #1 in the country with Keegan O’Toole and Rocky Elam. When these two teams faced off last year, Virginia Tech pulled out the victory winning 18-16 which was decided by the final match of the night at 285. The Hokie’s Nathan Traxler was responsible, beating Zach Elam 3-1 in sudden victory.
Both teams look to build off a strong start to the season and surge into top-5, however that will come with winning some swing matches that can push this dual to either team’s bench Sunday afternoon in Blacksburg.
125 – #16 Noah Surtin vs. #23 Eddie Ventresca
This dual will start with a matchup that could go either way, as both wrestlers are ranked within the top-25 wrestlers at 125-pounds. Hokie’s Eddie Ventresca (10-3) has been on the mat a lot to start the season, and just finished up at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational with a 2-2 record. That’s where Ventresca took Oregon State’s #10 Brandon Kaylor to the brink, but dropped the match in sudden victory 6-4. For the Tigers, #16 Noah Surtin (4-2) looks to return to the starting lineup, as Peyton Moore stepped out at 125-pounds in the 38-3 dual win over West Virginia last weekend. Surtin was just one takedown shy of All-American honors in his redshirt freshman season last year, and continues to climb in the 125-pound rankings. If Surtin is ready to go Sunday afternoon, he’ll seem to have the edge over the redshirt freshman Ventresca.
133 – Connor Brown vs. #11 Sam Latona
Virginia Tech’s #11 Sam Latona (12-4) had a rough stretch of three top-10 opponents at the stacked 133-pound weight class last weekend at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, having to go through Northwestern’s Chris Cannon, Cornell’s Vito Arujau, and Michigan’s Dylan Ragusin. Latona, placing sixth with a 3-3 record in the tournament, looks ahead for bonus points against Missouri’s Connor Brown (4-2). Brown was one point shy of taking out Arizona State’s #4 Michael McGee in the dual matchup between Missouri and Arizona State last month. Most recently, Brown picked up a win by fall over West Virginia’s Davin Rhoads, and will come into the dual riding that momentum.
141 – #10 Allan Hart vs. #12 Tom Crook
Missouri’s three-time NCAA qualifier #10 Allan Hart looks to build on his 4-2 start to the season, and continue to rise within the top-10 at 141-pounds. Hart is coming off an 11-2 major decision over West Virginia’s Jordan Titus, and the experienced Tiger will faceoff against true freshman #12 Tom Crook (10-2). Crook has had an excellent start to his career as a Hokie, placing fifth at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational with significant wins over Arizona State’s Jesse Vasquez and Purdue’s Parker Filius. This will be another swing match that can be a big factor in this dual and is a matchup to not miss. With Crook rolling hot to start the year, I’ll give him the edge as he looks to crack the top-10 at 141-pounds.
149 – #9 Brock Mauller vs. #11 Caleb Henson
#11 Caleb Henson (10-1) has been scorching hot to start his true freshman season for the Hokie’s, which all started with Henson’s electric upset over Ohio State’s #3 Sammy Sasso in the dual meet between Virginia Tech and Ohio State on Nov. 11th. Henson will have a really tough test with Missouri’s #9 Brock Mauller (5-1). Mauller’s only loss on the season came in a nailbiter against Arizona State’s Kyle Parco, who won by a score of 3-2. Mauller, a three-time All-American, will look to halt Henson’s hot start in a match that will be truly exciting. I’ll predict that Mauller’s years of experience with the Tigers will prove to give him an edge in his exciting matchup this Sunday afternoon.
157 – #13 Jarrett Jacques vs. #5 Bryce Andonian/Clayton Ulrey
This 157-pound matchup will be one to keep an eye on, especially if we see Hokie’s #5 Bryce Andonian officially step out onto the mat for the first time this season. Andonian, returning All-American, dropped a 3-1 decision to Michigan’s Will Lewan at the NWCA All-Star Classic to kickoff the 2022-2023 season, and has yet to return to the Hokie’s lineup. For Mizzou, #13 Jarrett Jacques (7-0) is unbeaten on the year, yet will possibly have his toughest opponent in Andonian this Sunday. Jacques wasn’t present for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, however won his previous matchup by a 4-3 decision against West Virginia’s Alex Hornfeck. If we see Andonian return, expect him to have a slight edge over a rolling Jarrett Jacques.
165 – #1 Keegan O’Toole vs. #23 Connor Brady
Returning NCAA Champion #1 Keegan O’Toole (7-0) continued his unbeaten record with an impressive 3-0 decision over West Virginia’s #6 Peyton Hall last Friday night. O’Toole comes into the contest with a 83.3% bonus rate on the year, which would be huge to continue that dominant rate into this matchup against the Hokie’s #23 Connor Brady (8-2). The last time Brady was out on the mat was at the Keystone Classic, he notched a quality victory over Drexel’s #17 Evan Barczak. Lookout for O’Toole to be dominant in the top position and look for key backpoints that can earn him the major decision at 165-pounds.
174 – #10 Peyton Mocco vs. #3 Mekhi Lewis
This past weekend at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Hokie’s #3 Mekhi Lewis dropped his first loss of the season to Nebraska’s #2 Mikey Labriola in sudden victory by a score of 3-1. Outside of the 174-pound final, Lewis was a good source of team points for the Hokie’s, winning three of his four matches by bonus points. Expect Lewis to bounce back after a heartbreaking loss to Labriola, and look much more on the attack against Missouri’s #10 Peyton Mocco (6-1). Mocco has had an impressive start to his junior season with wins over Arizona State’s Cael Valencia and West Virginia’s Scott Joll. Mocco will have to take notes from Labriola and Starroci to pull off a win, which will take a series of offensive attacks to get through the elite defense of Mehki Lewis.
184 – Sean Harman vs. #6 Hunter Bolen
Virginia Tech has a problem for opponents at 184-pounds, as #6 Hunter Bolen (10-2) has had a remarkable start to the 2022-2023 season. Last weekend, Bolen placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, with huge wins over Ohio State’s #4 Kaleb Romero, Michigan’s #10 Matt Finesilver, and Nebraska’s #17 Lenny Pinto. Bolen, the two-time All-American, will try to keep his momentous start going against Mizzou’s Sean Harman (7-2). Harman is coming off a second-place finish at SIUE’s Cougar Clash just last Sunday, and previously winning by medical forfeit in the dual between Missouri and West Virginia.
197 – #1 Rocky Elam vs. #16 Andy Smith
The second #1 ranked wrestler in the country for the Tigers, Rocky Elam , will be back out on the mat this Sunday for his second match of the season. After earning his #1 ranking honors after beating Iowa’s Jacob Warner at the NWCA All-Star Classic, Elam will look to continue to build and show off his top-ranked skills against the Hokie’s #16 Andy Smith (6-2). Smith just recently placed sixth at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, with impressive wins over Utah Valley’s Evan Bockman by fall, and South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan by a 5-2 decision. Expect Elam to be on the heavy attack, but don’t be surprised to see Smith put up a close fight.
285 – #5 Zach Elam vs. #19 Hunter Catka
Despite dropping a loss to Arizona State’s #4 Colton Schultz, Mizzou’s #5 Zach Elam has broken into the top-5 rankings at 285-pounds. Elam is a returning NCAA Qualifier and earned a third place medal at the Big 12 Championships last year, and is now 5-1 to start the 2022-2023 season. Hokie’s #19 Hunter Catka looks to improve on his 7-2 record, especially after missing out on the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational last weekend. In Catka’s last appearance, he placed second at the Keystone Classic, losing his only match to Duke’s Jonah Niesenbaum in sudden victory by a score of 3-1.
Projected Final Score: 17-16, Virginia Tech