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, 174 through 285 are under the microscope.
While 149 through 165 may be in Virginia Tech's wheelhouse, this group of weights should provide Maryland the necessary boast to be neck-in-neck with the Hokies for the team title. The Terps hold the top seed in three of the four weight classes.
Josh Asper (174), Christian Boley (197) and Jimmy Sheptock (184) are a combined 73-10 this season. The trio all enter as the favorites to claim ACC titles.
Ten NCAA automatic bids will be given out at the four weight classes with four coming at 184, three at 174, two at 197 and one at 285.
Asper will get his first and only shot at a 174-pound ACC title on Saturday. The senior moved up to 174 this season after three varsity seasons at 165 where he captured the 2011 ACC title and was a runner up twice.
The two-time All-American returned from injury in January and has won 11 straight matches including five ACC victories. Asper enters the tournament ranked No. 5 in the nation. His winning streak includes a victory over second-seeded Jon Fausey.
The 2012 ACC champion at 184, Fausey, ranked 17th nationally, went 2-2 in ACC matches in his first season at 174. Fausey edged out Virginia Tech's Austin Gabel and UNC's Tanner Eitel for the second seed despite having a worse winning percentage in ACC matches.
Gabel and Eitel went 3-2 in conference action. Fausey defeated Gabel twice this season, but lost to Eitel. Gabel will be the three seed. Gabel is 0-8 against nationally-ranked wrestlers this season. Gabel will face NC State's Patrick Davis, who he beat 12-8 in the regular season.
Eitel will take on Duke's Trey Adamson for the right to face Asper in the semifinals. Eitel defeated Adamson by a 3-2 margin on Feb. 12.
Sheptock, ranked seventh nationally, has been one of Maryland's most dominant wrestlers this season. Sheptock was a perfect 21-0 in duals this season and led the Terps in several categories.
The junior led the team in dual points scored (81), dual major decisions (5), dual tech falls (3), dual takedowns (67), dual 2-point near falls (9) and dual 3-point near falls (8). Additionally, he accumulated 67 takedowns in dual competition this season while only being taken down once.
VT's Nick Vetterlein holds the second seed. Sheptock defeated Vetterlein 7-2 when the two squared off on Jan. 25. Sheptock was Vetterlein's only ACC loss.
Vetterlein will get the winner of Virginia's Stephen Doty and NC State's Keegan Cerwinski. Doty defeated Cerwinski by technical fall in the regular season.
Sheptock will face the winner UNC's Alex Utley and Duke's Dylan Ryan. Utley earned a 14-2 major decision over Ryan in the regular season.
Since the turn of the year, Boley is 10-0 and has climbed to No. 14 in the country. During that span, Boley has knocked off two ranked opponents in 12th-ranked Brent Haynes of Missouri and 16th-ranked Richard Perry of Bloomsburg.
Boley went undefeated in ACC duals to earn him the top seed. Boley did suffer a defeat to second-seeded Derrick Borlie of Virginia Tech at Midlands in December, but rebounded to defeat Borlie in sudden victory when the Terps and Hokies squared off on Jan. 25.
Borlie will await the winner of Virginia's Mike Salopek and UNC's Frank Abbondanza. Salopek only appeared in two ACC duals, winning one and losing one. Abbondanza went 1-4.
Duke's Connor Hartman and NC State's Bill Cook will square off with the winner advancing to face Boley.
Based on InterMat's latest rankings, this weight class does not possess a nationally-ranked wrestler. With only one automatic bid available, this will be a hotly-contested division.
VT's David Marone is the top seed. Marone went undefeated in ACC competition, but enters the tournament a loser of three of his last five bouts albeit against two of the top four wrestlers in the country.
Virginia's Derek Papagianopoulos is seeded second. He was 4-1 in ACC duals this season with his lone loss coming against Marone, a 7-1 decision.
Maryland's Dallas Brown is the third seed. He will face North Carolina's Cody Klempay in the opening round. Brown pinned the Tar Heel back on Jan. 26. Brown did not face Marone in the regular season and dropped a close 5-3 decision to Papagianopoulos.NC State's Mike Kosoy and Duke's Brian Self face off in the other first-round match. The winner advances to face Marone in the semis.