With the ACC Wrestling Championships set for Saturday at Comcast Center, I will be previewing each weight class in three installments leading up to the weekend. Today, 149 through 165 are under the microscope.
With the release of the championship bracket Tuesday evening, Virginia Tech finds themselves with all three top seeds in this group of weight classes. Virginia holds all three No. 2 seeds.
Based on the NCAA allocations, seven wrestlers from these three weight classes will earn automatic bids to NCAA Championships with two each coming from 149 and 157, and three coming from 165.
This is the area of the tournament where the Hokies can pick up a significant number of points. All three of VT's wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes led by fourth-ranked Pete Yates at 165.
VT's Nick Brascetta enters the tournament as the brackets' top seed. Brascetta went undefeated in ACC action, but right on his heels is second-seeded Derek Valenti of Virginia, ranked 20th in the country.
Valenti went 4-1 in conference duals losing only to Brascetta by a 3-2 margin when the two squads met on Nov. 25. Valenti also dropped another close decision to Brascetta by the same scoreline in a tiebreaker when the two wrestlers met at the Virginia Duals.
After Brascetta and Valenti, Duke's Marcus Cain will be looking to crash the party. Cain won 2 of 3 conference duals. Cain will meet the Terrapins' Lou Mascola in the opening round.
Mascola's lone conference victory came over Cain when the Terps and Blue Devils met Feb. 9. Mascola pinned Cain 30 seconds into the final period and should head into the matchup with a lot of confidence. A win for Mascola would provide vital team points for the Terps.
UNC's Christian Barber and NC State's Tommy Gantt round out the bracket as the 4/5 matchup. Barber went 2-2 in conference action, while Gantt went 1-4.
Ninth-ranked Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech will be seeking his third ACC title on Saturday. Dong, who missed last season due to injury, went 5-0 in league duals with three of those wins by technical fall or major decision.
His closest match came against UVa's Jedd Moore. Dong won a 3-0 decision over Moore on Nov. 25. Moore enters the tournament ranked 14th nationally. Moore went 3-1 in the ACC.
Duke's Immanuel Kerr-Brown will square off against the Terps' Danny Orem in the first round with the winner advancing to face Moore. Orem did not face Kerr-Brown when the Blue Devils and Terps squared off on Feb. 9.
Kerr-Brown finished the ACC schedule 3-2, while Orem only wrestled in one ACC dual. Just like Mascola, a win here for Orem could go a long way in helping the Terps claim their 25th overall conference title.
Fourth-seeded Matt Nereim of NC State and fifth-seeded Chris Mears of North Carolina will battle for the right to take on Dong in the semifinals.
A 2012 All-American and ACC Champion, Pete Yates headlines the 165-pound bracket. Yates went undefeated in five conference matches scoring bonus points in three of the five matches. Yates enters the tournament as the fourth-ranked wrestler nationally.
After losing to Yates by a 7-2 margin in November, Virginia's Nick Sulzer closed the gap and lost 3-1 at the Virginia Duals.
The Terps' Domenic DeRobertis and UNC's John Staudenmayer will meet in the first round. DeRobertis assumed the starting spot at 165 in January and went 1-3 in the ACC with a win over Duke's Randy Roden, who is the fifth seed. Staudenmayer won a 5-0 decision in January over DeRobertis.Roden will face NC State's Nijel Jones in the first round with the winner getting Yates in the semifinals.