The ACC Wrestling Championships will take place Sunday, March 8th at the Peterson Events Center. Doors open at 10am, and the first round begins at 11. There are only six teams in the ACC for wrestling, but four are ranked top 10 nationally. The ACC has become the second toughest conference in the country behind the Big Ten in recent years, and Sunday’s tournament will produce exciting matches, team race drama, and have a big effect on seeding for NCAAs.
The conference dual meet standings for the regular season were as follows: 1. North Carolina State, 2. North Carolina, 3. Pitt, 4. Virginia Tech, 5. Virginia, 6. Duke.
Duke and Virginia will likely finish 6th and 5th again at the tournament, but the top four is a complete tossup. Here is a chart outlining each team’s intra-conference dual meet bout record, with the record pertaining to the teams in the left column against the teams in the top row.
|NC State||UNC||Pitt||Va Tech||Virginia||Duke|
Between NC State, UNC, Pitt, and Va Tech, there are a lot of 6-4 and 4-6 records. In other words, one match gets flipped it’s a completely different story. The chances those four teams shake out in the same order as the regular season is equal to any other combination of possible finishes (although NC State is the favorite). Virginia Tech was 0-3 vs the other top schools, but beat Ohio State earlier this year, as well as Cornell, Central Michigan, Northwestern, and Missouri. NC State placed 2nd at the Southern Scuffle and posted wins over Cornell and Princeton. UNC beat Michigan, Princeton, and Cornell. Pitt was victorious over Campbell and Lehigh. It’s going to be close.
Pitt Gets Three No. 1 Seeds
As expected, with their undefeated conference record, Micky Phillippi (133), Gregg Harvey (174), and Demetrius Thomas (285) will start on the top of the bracket. Kellan Stout was the only Panther to earn a two-seed. Nino Bonaccorsi and Taleb Rahmani came in at No. 3, Cole Matthews and Jake Wentzel at No. 4, and Louis Newell and Dallas Bulsak at No. 5.
Even with Nino’s big win over Hunter Bolen in the Virginia Tech match, he still lost to Trent Hidlay, and Bolen had the better regular season.
The ACC received 35 automatic qualification spots for NCAAs, ranging from 1-5 in the ten weight classes. To get a sense of how the Pitt wrestlers need to compete, here’s a chart comparing their seed and that weight class’s number of bids:
Based on these numbers, it’s conceivable Pitt could get eight NCAA qualifiers. At least six for sure, which is one more than last year.
Pitt also has the most No. 1 seeds.
|NC State||UNC||Pitt||Va Tech||UVA||Duke|
The seed averages correspond perfectly to the dual standings.
Obviously all ten entrants want to qualify for NCAAs. Easier said than done.
As mentioned, Pitt will most likely send between 6-8 to Minneapolis for the NCAA Championships. Louis Newell and Dallas Bulsak cannot depend on an at-large bid, and will need to automatically qualify. Cole Matthews and Kellan Stout would be borderline for an at-large should they not place high enough this weekend. Micky, Taleb, Jake, Gregg, Nino, and Meech are all locks even if they do not qualify out of the conference.
Individually, Cole and Taleb, despite their middle-of-the-pack seeds, have a decent shot at the finals. Cole would have to beat Brian Courtney and Tariq Wilson and Taleb would have to go through Eric Carter and AC Headlee. If you followed the dual season closely, you know these are winnable matches.
All three No. 1 seeds should make the finals, but Harvey will have tough semi. Based on past results, Jake Wentzel and Nino will have difficult tests in their semi matches, but if they should lose, would have little trouble in the consolations.
Kellan Stout should make the finals, and will need to beat No. 1 seed Jay Aiello to make NCAAs. He almost did a few weeks ago in the dual.
If all three No. 1 seeds win, and Pitt gets a few upsets, the Panthers may just win their first conference tournament title since 2013 (they won the 2014 ACC Dual title).