The Virginia Tech wrestling program kicked off one of the biggest weekends in program history on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Saturday night, Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable was in town to host a skills clinic for both college and local high school coaches and players. The visit from the wrestling legend set the stage for the weekend’s main event: a matchup between #10 Virginia Tech and #4 Ohio State.
Dan Gable was a 15-time national championship coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1976-1997. In that time span, Gable coached both Virginia Tech’s head coach Kevin Dresser and Ohio State’s head coach Tom Ryan.
“Tom [Ryan] is a Hawkeye and an intense dude. He doesn’t like losing just like we don’t like losing,” said Dresser. “It’s one of those dual meets that wrestling needs more of.”
The weekend’s first event was the skills clinic, which took place in the Bowman Room at Cassell Coliseum.
“The purpose of the clinic was to help high school and middle school wrestlers and to provide them with knowledge from a legend [Gable],” said Dresser.
Gable gave a speech to coaches and wrestlers in attendance, which can be seen here:
When the clinic had concluded, the Hokies’ and Buckeyes’ wrestling teams took center stage. 2,833 fans filed into a cozy Cassell Coliseum to create an electric atmosphere. Tech was ranked #10 in the country and was coming off of back-to-back ACC championships in 2013 and 2014. On the other side of the mat, Ohio State came into the match ranked #4 in the country and had 9 of its 10 wrestlers ranked in the top 13 by InterMat.
The match was broadcast live on ESPN3 with Gable mat-side as a co-host along with David Marone and host Danny Nokes. CJ Fiala was the sideline reporter; marking the first time the HokieVision crew had incorporated sideline interviews.
“Producing this event on behalf of Virginia tech for ESPN will be a highlight in my career,” said producer Christopher Bullard. “Having Dan Gable a part of the broadcast team is something that I never dreamed of but glad I was a part of.”
OSU and Tech battled back and forth the entire match trading victories. After nine of the ten matches, Tech trailed the Buckeyes 15-18. The Hokies needed a victory from heavyweight Ty Walz over Ohio State’s Nick Tavanello to tie the overall score.
“I had to trust my Sports Information Director, Bryan Johnston,” said Dresser. “He came up to me before the match and said ‘Walz has to win by two.'”
Going along with the theme of the rest of the match, the final contest of the day went to a tiebreaker. Walz lead Tavanello 5-4 at the beginning of the period. However, Walz was able to earn an escape giving him a point, and a 6-4 lead as the crowd came to its feet.
“Knowing you have to win is never fun,” said Walz. “Usually I like to have an open and free-flowing style when I’m out there.
Walz held on for the 6-4 decision over Tavanello, which tied the overall team scores at 18.
Since Walz was able to win his matchup by two points, the Hokies ultimately won the match on third criteria tiebreaker.
“It’s harder when you know the match is on the line,” said Walz. “We have the best coaches in the country and the best wrestlers in the country and that’s why we won.”
#10 Virginia Tech (4-0) 19, #4 Ohio State (3-1) 18
125: #5 Joey Dance (VT) dec. #10 Nathan Tomasello, 7-6
133: #8 Johnni DiJulius (OSU) dec. #19 Kevin Norstrem, 2-1
141: #1 Logan Stieber (OSU) fall Jerry Ronnau, 3:37
149: #2 Devin Carter (VT) dec. Randy Languis, 12-6
157: #7 Josh Demas (OSU) dec. Sal Mastriani, 11-6
165: Chris Moon (VT) dec. Justin Kresevic, 6-1
174: #11 Zach Epperly (VT) fall #13 Mark Martin, 10:50 (TB-2)
184: #7 Kenny Courts (OSU) dec. Austin Gabel, 9-5
197: #7 Kyle Snyder (OSU) dec. Jared Haught, 8-5
285: #10 Ty Walz (VT) dec. #11 Nick Tavanello, 6-4 (TB-1)
* – Virginia Tech wins on the third tiebreaker (match points, 48-47)
Check out the highlights from one of Virginia Tech wrestling’s biggest wins in program history:
Following the match, we had a chance to sit down with Head Coach, Kevin Dresser, to get his thoughts on the match, as well as an outlook on the team: