Duke wrestling hosts N.C. State as ACC slate gets underway

<p>After ringing in 2016 with a successful tournament showing,&nbsp;the Blue Devils will take aim at the No. 3 Wolfpack in their first ACC contest of the season.</p>

After ringing in 2016 with a successful tournament showing, the Blue Devils will take aim at the No. 3 Wolfpack in their first ACC contest of the season.

The calendar may have just flipped to 2016, but competition for the Blue Devils is not waiting to shift into high gear in the new year.

Following a program-best 12th-place finish at the Southern Scuffle, Duke returns to Durham to host its first dual meet of the season against No. 4 N.C. State Wednesday at Card Gymnasium at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils will look to build off of their tournament success to capture their first dual victory of the season as ACC play opens for both teams.

Duke (0-1) has had plenty of tournament success so far this season but has only competed once in the dual format—a 26-14 loss at Appalachian State Dec. 15. After dropping into a quick 10-0 hole—partly due to a forfeit at 133 pounds—the Blue Devils rattled off three straight victories at 141, 149 and 157 pounds. But a 1-4 ledger in their last five matches, including a pin defeat at 184 pounds and a major decision loss at heavyweight, kept the victory out of reach.

No. 5 Conner Hartmann was the only Duke grappler after intermission to capture a win against the Mountaineers at 197 pounds. Despite his first loss of the season at the Southern Scuffle, the redshirt senior rallied for a third-place podium finish last weekend, capturing his 10th victory of the year.

No. 20 Mitch Finesilver finished fifth at the Southern Scuffle for the Blue Devils—a result that earned the sophomore a breakthrough into the national rankings for the first time at 149 pounds—and will look to remain undefeated in dual matches. Against Appalachian State, Finesilver recorded a 2-0 decision to breathe life into the early Duke rally.

No. 12 Jake Faust was not as successful in his first dual of the year, dropping a 3-1 decision at 165 pounds at Appalachian State. But the redshirt sophomore showed potential in regaining his top wrestling form at the Southern Scuffle with his second ranked victory of the season, once again topping Jim Wilson of Stanford, who he also defeated Nov. 8 at the Hokie Open.

But the Wolfpack (11-0) have recorded the most consecutive wins to open a season in program history—in their nation-leading 11 victories, N.C. State captured wins against three ranked opponents, including a 19-15 win Dec. 6 against then-No. 4 Oklahoma State on the road in Stillwater, Okla.

N.C. State enters Wednesday's dual after capturing fourth place at the 53rd Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., last week. Two wrestlers—No. 6 Tommy Gantt at 157 pounds and two-time defending national champion No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski at heavyweight—recorded first-place titles for the first time in program history at the event. The redshirt seniors are a combined 28-0 this season, including 9-0 against ranked foes, and Gwiazdowski is currently the owner of an NCAA-best 71 match winning streak.

Four other N.C. State wrestlers are also ranked in the top 20 in the InterMat polls, giving the Blue Devils plenty to handle in the upcoming matchup. No. 3 Kevin Jack and No. 16 Pete Renda enter the dual riding a wave of momentum from top-five finishes at the Midlands at 141 and 184 pounds, respectively. At 165 and 197 pounds, No. 4 Max Rohskopf and No. 17 Michael Boykin buoy the back half of the Wolfpack lineup as well.

The Wolfpack captured a 21-14 road victory at Appalachian State Dec. 4.


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