Duke wrestling closes out the regular season with two home meets

Duke will have one final shot at its first ACC win against the Wolfpack Saturday.
Duke will have one final shot at its first ACC win against the Wolfpack Saturday.

The Blue Devils will use two final home meets to close out their season and prepare for the postseason next month.

Duke welcomes N.C. State and No. 23 Northwestern to a dual tournament Saturday at Card Gym. The Blue Devils will match up in their final ACC tilt before taking on a Wildcat squad that has yet to lose a nonconference meet.

“We had a good three days of practice… just trying to see where our guys are—last ACC dual of the season, and then a Big Ten team coming in as well,” head coach Glen Lanham said. “I’m excited to see our guys compete.”

Facing off against the Wolfpack (13-6, 1-4 in the ACC) at 10 a.m., the Blue Devils (6-13, 0-5) will close out conference play attempting to earn the highest possible placement for the fast-approaching ACC Championships. In the last meeting between these in-state foes, Duke claimed a 22-9 victory on N.C. State’s home mats Feb. 20, 2013. This year’s Blue Devil squad, however, returns only three wrestlers from last year’s lineup.

“[N.C. State is] coming off a good season. They’re wrestling tough,” Lanham said. “Our lineup has kind of changed from last year, having two NCAA qualifiers out [due to injury], but bottom line is we have some individual matchups there, and I feel like we’ve got to compete in those matches, so we’ll see what happens."

The featured round of the morning will be at the 157-pound weight class, where Immanuel Kerr-Brown will look to finish his regular season conference competition undefeated. The redshirt junior will be squaring off against Wolfpack junior Tommy Gantt, who has only lost once this season to a conference opponent. Kerr-Brown and Gantt were both ranked in the most recent coaches' panel at No. 22 and No. 19, respectively.

“That’s going to be a really good matchup for us. Basically, that match is going to be for the top seed in the conference,” Lanham said. “I feel like [Kerr-Brown]’s been wrestling well… and I think that [he’s] going to come out on top for sure.”

After a brief respite during which N.C. State and Wildcats will wrestle each other, the Blue Devils will step back onto the mats to face their first Big Ten opponent in nearly three months. Northwestern—whose conference dominates the rankings with 10 teams in the top 25—enters Saturday with four ranked wrestlers, including No. 1 heavyweight Mike McMullan.

This year’s bout with Northwestern (7-7) will likely feature two repeat matchups at the 174- and 197-pound weight classes with Blue Devil redshirt sophomores Trey Adamson and Conner Hartmann seeking revenge against Wildcat juniors Lee Munster and No. 16 Alex Polizzi.

“It’s just practice for ACCs. I feel like it’s a good test for our guys. I know Conner’s gottwo really tough opponents,” Lanham said. “[We’re] just trying to prepare for ACCs. We’re going to be off for two weeks after that, so I think a good push going into ACCs is going to be good for our guys—a good test for them.”

With an end to the regular season Saturday and two weeks to prepare, both Duke and N.C. State will look ahead to March 8, when they will travel to Blacksburg, Va., for the ACC Championships. In addition to vying for a team win in conference against the Wolfpack, Duke's individual wrestlers will be competing to improve their chances of qualifying for NCAAs.

“Obviously, we’ve had a really tough schedule this year,” Lanham said. “My concern is just to have our guys ready for Nationals and ACCs, and so that’s what I feel like we’re trying to do. We’re trying to peak at the right time, and [Saturday is] just another step to those two tournaments.”


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