One Duke wrestler continues to roll, but his team is still searching for its first ACC victory.
Wrestling Friday at Charlotte Latin School in a Wounded Warrior Project benefit match, the Blue Devils lost to No. 17 Virginia Tech 33-4. After forfeiting the 125-pound and heavyweight classes, Duke went down 12-0 early and failed to recover.
“I thought the effort was there. We tried to get to a lot of finishes, but we didn’t get to them,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “You look at the score and it looks horrible, but if you’re here and you look at each match, it was closer than the score reflected.”
Despite the one-sided score, Virginia Tech’s wins were all narrow, with each bout ending in a decision or sudden victory. The only blowout matchup was in the 157-pound weight class, where Duke (4-8, 0-3 in the ACC) notched its sole win of the night with a major decision from redshirt junior Immanuel Kerr-Brown against Sal Mastriani of Virginia Tech (14-2, 3-1). Kerr-Brown remains undefeated in ACC matches and has a 10-3 record in duals this season.
“[Kerr-Brown] is in the zone. He’s confident in himself,” Lanham said. “He’s got a swag about himself. He’s more vocal as a captain. He’s doing all the right things right now, and it’s paying off.”
Kerr-Brown’s performance has been the highlight of a the team's season thus far. Friday in Charlotte, the Rome, Ga., native had two takedowns and a near fall early in the match to pull ahead 7-1. From that point, he never looked back, cruising to a 16-4 victory.
On either side of Kerr-Brown’s round, Duke ended up on the wrong side of seven close matches. In the 133-pound matchup, redshirt freshman Evan Botwin entered the third period tied 7-7 against the Hokies’ Dennis Gustafson. Although Botwin managed to take a 9-7 lead with an early takedown, he lost the match 12-9. Trey Adamson suffered a similar fate at 174 pounds, battling through three periods only to lose 6-4 on a sudden victory at the hands of John Dickson.
“The close matches Trey and [Botwin] were in, we’ve got to win those matches," Lanham said. "Those matches can turn the tables and help the team out.”
Entering the back half of their schedule, the Blue Devils have not beaten a conference opponent and only have three chances left to do so. Taking a break from the ACC, Duke will take to the mats against four nonconference opponents before they travel north to face Maryland.
“We’ve got to get to our guys and coach them better,” Lanham said. “The fight’s there… We’ve just got to finish in positions, and we’re not doing that right now.”
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