Blue Devil wrestling fights hard, falls to No. 9 Virginia Tech in final ACC dual meet

Freshman Mitch Finesilver upset No. 17 Kevin Norstrem for a 12-6 minor decision.
Freshman Mitch Finesilver upset No. 17 Kevin Norstrem for a 12-6 minor decision.

Duke gave it all it had, but it just was not enough.

The Blue Devils left it all on the mat Saturday in their last ACC dual meet of the year, but fell 22-15 against No. 9 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. With the win on senior night, the Hokies captured the 2014-2015 ACC Dual Meet Championship.

“I felt like our guys did an outstanding job of pressing these guys,” head coach Glen Lanham said. “Virginia Tech thought that we were going to come in and lay down and they were going to roll all over us. When things didn’t go their way, they started to get on edge a little bit.”

Duke (10-6, 1-4 in the ACC) put forth a valiant effort facing a stout Virginia Tech squad. The Hokies (14-2, 5-0) started six ranked grapplers against the Blue Devils, but the underdogs were able to keep it close despite the mismatch on paper—a sign that Lanham seems to have his team moving in the right direction in just his third year in Durham.

“Give credit where credit is due,” Lanham said. “I felt like it’s a statement for Duke wrestling. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to continue to wrestle hard. We’re going to get better. We’re going to start to come out on top of some of these matches like this…. You’re not going to have a team that is going to lay down. We’re not going to be a doormat.”

Four Blue Devils were able to capture wins against the talented Virginia Tech team. Freshman Mitch Finesilver, redshirt junior Marcus Cain, sophomore Jacob Kasper and No. 7 Conner Hartmann put team points on the board with wins.

Finesilver captured the most impressive win of the night for Duke. The Greenwood Village, Colo., native was leading No. 17 Kevin Norstrem 8-6 with 1:30 remaining in the third period before finishing strong with a takedown that allowed him to pull away in the closing seconds for a 12-6 minor decision.

With the upset, the freshman improves to 8-4 in a Duke singlet—including his Appalachian State Open title in the 133-pound weight class earlier this season.

“Mitch [Finesilver] is tough,” Lanham said. “When he starts to figure out how tough he is going to be, he is going to be a handful. He pretty much dominated that match from start to finish. That was a big win for him.”

Cain continued to look strong for the Blue Devils at 149, scoring a near fall toward the end of the second period to pull away 5-0 against freshman Brent Waterman. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native would go on to capture the minor decision 6-1 and move the Blue Devils within two points of the Hokies at 8-6.

After Duke dropped the 157-pound matchup, redshirt sophomore Brian Dorsey looked poised to pull out the victory at 165 by scoring a takedown to even the match at 4-4 with just 13 seconds remaining—a call that was initially scored for Virginia Tech’s Chad Strube before being reversed.

In the final 13 seconds, Strube started down looking for the winning point against Dorsey if he could escape. With the clock under a second, the Hokie grappler did escape and scored to take the minor decision 5-4.

“The swing match for us was the 165 match with Brian Dorsey,” Lanham said. “It was a very heated match. A lot of challenges from both coaches in a position where I felt like we really had back points and did not end up getting them. He still had the opportunity to win the match, but when you wrestle the No. 9 team in the country, you need a lot of things to go your way.”

With the lead stretched to 19-6 with only three weight classes remaining it seemed as if any hope of pulling off the victory was out of reach for upset-minded Duke. At 184, however, six forfeit points moved the score back to 19-12.

Halfway through the second period of the match, Kasper scored a takedown against redshirt junior Austin Gabel—but the Hokie let out a cry of pain as he fell to the mat grasping his knee. Unable to continue, the referee awarded the Lexington, Ohio, native the win.

Continuing his impressive regular season in the 197-weight class, Hartmann improved to 16-2 on the season—including 5-0 in ACC duals—by defeating redshirt freshman Jared Haught in a 7-4 minor decision.

“Our guys did what we needed to do,” Lanham said. “We wrestled hard. We wrestled seven minutes. We had a couple of nice individual performances from [our guys].”

At the heavyweight class, the Blue Devils could not capitalize on the 19-15 team score to pull off the upset. No. 8 Ty Walz put the dual away with a minor decision triumph against redshirt junior Brendan Walsh.

Duke will now take a break after a grueling seven-match-in-15-days stretch before taking on Big Ten foes Michigan State and Michigan. The duals in The Great Lakes State are set for Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, with 7 p.m. starts slated for both nights.


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