Shut out 41-0 by No. 10 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. at the beginning of January, the Blue Devils have yet to win a match in 2013.
They hope to change that when they return to the Old Dominion State this weekend to take on Virginia Military Institute in Lexington Saturday evening and No. 11 Virginia in Charlottesville Sunday afternoon.
“Virginia Tech wrestled tough, and it snowballed on our younger guys,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “We couldn’t really bounce back. This week we prepared our guys to wrestle complete matches and not to relax on the edges or on the bottom.”
The Blue Devils (1-4) will open their weekend against a winless VMI (0-7) squad Saturday evening. In addition to losing all of their dual meets, the Keydets finished in last place at the Keystone Classic in November and 11th out of 13 teams at the Brute Invitational in December. The average margin of defeat in their past five meets is 29.2 points. Head coach John Trudgeon partially attributes his team’s lack of success to injuries.
“We’ve been struggling,” Trudgeon said. “Individual injuries have prevented us from putting our best team on the mat. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.”
In light of these injuries, VMI’s starting lineup includes true freshmen, Trudgeon said. All of the freshmen on Duke’s roster are redshirting, giving them a year to adjust to the demands of competing at the college level.
“Going from a high school senior to a college wrestler is a big step up,” Trudgeon said. “We’re going through some growing pains.”
At the Hokie Open Nov. 4, Blue Devil sophomore Tanner Hough defeated Keydet senior Ryan Goodsell 4-0 in the 141-pound weight class, and Duke redshirt freshman Trey Adamson took down VMI senior John Dommert 11-4 in the 174-pound division. In the 197-pound weight class at the Keystone Classic, Blue Devil junior Brian Self pinned Keydet sophomore Urayoan Garcia in 4:15.
Sunday afternoon, the Blue Devils will retake the mat to face Virginia (9-3). The No. 4 seed in the Virginia Duals last weekend, the Cavaliers took down top-seeded and ninth-ranked Central Michigan in the semifinals before falling to Virginia Tech in the finals.
“We’re having a really good season so far,” Virginia head coach Steve Garland said. “Our program has never made it to the semis or the finals, so making it to the finals was a big program first for us.”
The only win on Duke’s schedule came against Stevens Tech, a Division III program. The Blue Devils finished 16th out of 24 in the Southern Scuffle, in which Virginia earned a sixth-place finish and Cavalier redshirt senior Jedd Brown defeated Duke redshirt sophomore Immanuel Kerr-Brown 11-0 in the 157-pound weight class. In spite of the Blue Devils’ setbacks, the Cavaliers are not overlooking Duke.
“I’m expecting a good fight,” Garland said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to be scrapping for every point. I know how talented [the Blue Devils] are.”
Garland identified redshirt senior Peter Terrezza, redshirt sophomore Brandon Gambucci and redshirt freshman Marcus Cain as particularly dangerous wrestlers in Duke’s starting lineup. Garland recruited Cain in high school and took interest in Gambucci as well.
Although the Cavaliers consider the Blue Devils a difficult opponent, Garland believes in his team’s brand of wrestling.
“Every team in the country has a different style,” he said. “We’re a team that’s good at scrambling and good on the mat, and that’s what we’re going to stick with.”