Duke wrestling eyes upset at No. 10 N.C. State Wednesday after dominating Hofstra and LIU Post
After opening their 2017 dual season in convincing fashion Sunday, the Blue Devils now hope to carry that momentum into ACC action.
Duke traveled to Brookville, N.Y., during the weekend to take on Hofstra and LIU Post, dominating Hofstra 31-10 and knocking off LIU Post 38-6 to post two emphatic wins. Six of the 10 Blue Devils competing went undefeated in the two matchups and will look for more success Wednesday at 7 p.m. when Duke takes on No. 10 N.C. State at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.
Fast starts keyed the Blue Devils in their two weekend duals, with junior Thayer Atkins at 125 pounds, redshirt junior Cole Baumgartner at 133 pounds and redshirt sophomore Zach Finesilver at 141 pounds all went unbeaten to put Duke up 13-0 in both matchups. Similar results Wednesday could have the Blue Devils in good position against their third top-20 opponent of the 2016-17 campaign.
“[We’ve been trying to improve on] our basics, just having our guys getting to their offensive, finding angles, and not allowing our offense to be stagnant,” Blue Devil head coach Glen Lanham said. “For the Hofstra match, we worked on that during the match and I saw our guys really improve on that.”
Duke (2-2) fell to then-No. 15 Oregon State and then-No. 18 Wisconsin by close margins in the fall.
But the Blue Devils carry a great deal of confidence into their latest top-20 tilt led by redshirt junior heavyweight Jacob Kasper.
After winning the program's first-ever individual title at the Southern Scuffle to start the new year, Kasper pinned both his opponents Sunday to continue rolling. Junior Alex Schenk at 184 pounds and senior Connor Bass at 174 pounds also went 2-0 during the weekend.
Duke also got a boost from two competitors who made their season debuts—redshirt junior Jake Faust at 157 pounds and junior Luke Farinaro at 197 pounds. Faust posted a 17-1 technical fall to earn five points in his only bout Sunday against Hofstra's Jake Kaminsky, and Farinaro won his team three points with a 15-2 major decision against LIU Post's Logan McGinn after dropping a 5-4 decision to Hofstra's Nezar Haddad earlier in the day.
Both competitors will be in the lineup again Wednesday, and hope to help the Blue Devils earn a third straight dual win in Raleigh. Duke and N.C. State (4-1) have split their last four matchups, with each team winning on the road twice.
“We have some really good matchups and I’m excited to see how our guys are competing,” Lanham said. “It was a good weekend and we want to build on that.”
Ranked No. 7 nationally after his strong start to 2017, Kasper will look to stay hot against Wolfpack redshirt senior Mike Kosoy or junior Michael Boykin. Kasper and Kosoy wrestled in the Wolfpack Open in the fall, with Kasper moving on with a 15-4 decision on his way to the tournament title.
“Something I’m going to keep in mind going into this match and all ACC matches is, ‘Make these guys not want to wrestle you again,’" Kasper said. "Because if you can have them mentally beat before they go out there, then that’s going to be a major advantage come March [at the ACC championship].”
Kasper and Bass are Duke's only two ranked competitors, compared to four for the Wolfpack, whose only dual loss this year came against then-No 7 Nebraska. One of N.C. State's most impressive wins was a 30-8 rout against then-No. 23 Appalachian State.
But the Blue Devils know anything can happen in ACC competition and are expecting a hard-fought battle in each weight class, even with their team's star expected to lead the way once again.
“Kasper wrestled [Kosoy] and beat him pretty good at the Wolfpack Open and now I think he’s going to come out and wrestle hard,” Lanham said. “We want to see how Kasper’s going to respond to that. We also want to see how Faust, down at 157, can function at 57.”
Faust will take on N.C. State freshman Thomas Bullard at 157 pounds Wednesday evening, with his teammates also hoping to start ACC play strong against some of their toughest opponents of the year.
Baumgartner will likely face 14th-ranked Jamal Morris at 133 pounds, Finesilver will have the stiff challenge of facing second-ranked Kevin Jack at 141 pounds, senior Xaviel Ramos will eye an upset against No. 15 Sam Speno and Schenk is expected to take on No. 12 Michael Macchiavello at 184 pounds.
Many of the Blue Devils remember the team's 18-17 win two years ago as well as last season's 34-9 blowout loss at home against N.C. State, and now hope to add to the team's past road success in Raleigh.
“I’m confident. I want our guys to go out there and not just compete, but I want us to go out there and win. Our guys are always confident because they know that they’re prepared," Lanham said. "They want to get after it and wrestle. We’ve always done well against ranked teams, so I feel like our guys look forward to wrestling ranked teams.”
Although taking on a top-10 opponent on the road is a daunting task, Duke has much more on its mind than simply posting another strong showing—the Blue Devils seek to earn a resume-building victory.
“We’re past the competing stage, we want to win. That’s where we’re at, that’s the next step in our program," Lanham said. "The evolution is to not just compete hard but win.”