Although the captain returned victorious, the rest of the Blue Devils were carved up by the Cavaliers.
Duke struggled once again against an ACC foe, losing to Virginia by a final score of 45-3 Friday evening in Charlottesville, Va. Duke suffered five falls, three pins, two major decision losses and one forfeit on the road on the way to its fourth ACC loss of the season.
“We just didn’t match their intensity. A lot of those matches just got out of hand. And we have to do better,” said Duke head coach Glen Lanham.
Senior captain Jonah Niesenbaum returned to action for the Blue Devils (3-10, 0-4 in the ACC) after being sidelined with a knee injury the week prior against Virginia Tech. The 285-pound heavyweight, still ranked No. 22 in the country, won his match comfortably against Ethan Weatherspoon of Virginia (8-5, 1-3) via a 7-1 decision. His performance included an aggressive takedown that landed Weatherspoon on his back in a possible near-fall position. The officials, however, determined after a video review that a near fall should not be awarded.
“I thought it was definitely a near fall. How they came up with the rule not to give that near fall is beyond me,” said Lanham. “Obviously, you go into a video review, you’re not going to overrule yourself. Most of these guys don’t. It’s hard for us to overcome bad positions or bad calls.”
Drake Doolittle's return from injury at 133 pounds was a rough affair, as the Blue Devil was dominated by Marlon Yarbrough II. Stopped in the second round with a final score of 21-5, the technical fall set the stage for a wrestle-off between Doolittle and junior Logan Agin for the starting spot at 133 pounds.
“We had a wrestle-off this past weekend,” Lanham said. “Logan beat Doolittle two times. And so now, Logan is the official starter for the remainder of the year.”
Thus, 125-pound freshman Ethan Grimminger will burn his redshirt and finish out the season as the starter in that weight class for Duke. The Orange, Calif., native fought his best bout of the season, falling to fifth-year Patrick McCormick via regular decision 8-2.
“Ethan Grimminger, we’re pulling him out of redshirt,” said Lanham. “He’s wrestling in a national qualifier and only gives up a regular decision and just fought his tail off. I was hoping that that would kind of set a trend for the rest of the guys to say, ‘Hey, if this freshman can fight out here, I need to fight as well.’”
After some hope that Conor Becker would return from injury, the medical staff has sidelined the junior for the season while the coaching staff has elected to keep freshman Gaetano Console’s redshirt. This means that Duke will remain without a wrestler at the 174-pound weight class for the remainder of the season.
“He’s done,” Lanham said of Becker. “In order to wrestle the guys, we’d have to burn [redshirts]. We just feel like those guys are undersized. And we just won’t do that.”
Duke hosts Gardner-Webb Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium for Senior Night. Honorees will include Doolittle, Gabe Dinette, Vincent Baker, Brayden Ray, Bryson Neace and Niesenbaum (even though the captain has another year of eligibility).
“This team is young, it’s a continued learning,” said Lanham of the season so far.
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