Duke wrestling falls flat in shutout loss to Virginia Tech

Duke fell 45-0 to Virginia Tech at home Friday.
Duke fell 45-0 to Virginia Tech at home Friday.

On a night without its star captain, Duke was dominated Friday in all facets on the mat, losing 45-0 to ACC rival Virginia Tech inside Card Gym. All 10 Duke wrestlers lost their bouts with one pin, two major decision technical losses and five major decision losses.

“We didn’t match their intensity,” Lanham said. “Just a bad showing. We got to have some fights. We didn't have that tonight, we really just kind of laid down.”

Senior captain Jonah Niesenbaum, currently ranked as the No. 22 heavyweight in the country, was out of the lineup Friday with a tweaked knee. In his place, freshman Connor Barket wrestled up to 285 pounds. Although Barket was able to get to the leg of 23rd-ranked Hokie grappler Hunter Catka multiple times, the sheer weight difference between the wrestlers left Barket with no leverage.

“We want Jonah to be healthy,” said Lanham. “So we figured, let’s get Barket one more match. Get him out there wrestling. Let Barket get one more match.”

Virginia Tech has one of the more talented lineups in the ACC, starting eight ranked grapplers Friday. Duke (3-9, 0-3 in the ACC), however, was sloppy in its approach, diving in on shots and not getting into enough ties in neutral. As a result, Virginia Tech (8-3, 2-1) picked the Blue Devils apart, implementing ankle picks, single-leg takedowns, sweeps and trips to toss the hapless Blue Devils to the mat. The Hokies also employed the tactic of cutting: taking down an opponent, allowing them to get back up and then taking them down again to quickly rack up points.

“They’re a good team though,” Lanham said of Virginia Tech. “Don't get me wrong. But we just didn’t wrestle up to our ability.”

The night started out rough at 125 pounds and 133 pounds, as freshman Ethan Grimminger and junior Logan Agin lost their matches 17-2 and 15-5, respectively. Grimminger fell victim to an early takedown from Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech, who racked up back points. Ventresca eventually forced a technical stoppage in the second round. Logan Agin had good shot defense early but lost control of the bout in the second round, losing by major decision.

“He’s got to look to look at himself and figure out that he’s not a 133-pounder,” Lanham said of Agin. “If he says he’s capable of doing that, you gotta work at that. I mean when I went up a weight in college, it took me a whole year to do just solid lifting with football players. I don’t see that happening.”

Senior Gabe Dinette, who began wrestling in January due to injury, served as Duke’s captain Friday and was the only Blue Devil not to lose by major decision. He finished the night with a 12-5 loss to Connor Brady, No. 26 in the nation, at 165 pounds. 

“He’s got to wrestle tougher,” Lanham said of Dinette. “The guy’s got the credentials. You got to kind of show that now … he’s running out of time.”

The Blue Devils once again forfeited at 174 pounds, as Conor Becker continues to battle injury and Gaetano Console retains his redshirt status. Although optimistic about Becker’s return after last weekend’s duals, the coaching staff seems more cautious now.

“We’d like him back in the lineup. It’s going to be his decision [and] our trainers' decision to see when he can go. What we’re kind of doing right now is just trying to nurse him back, maybe get him for ACCs. We don't know.”

Duke next travels up to Charlottesville, Va., Friday for a dual against Virginia.

“I’m tired of looking in the mirror. I do every day try to evaluate what I’m doing,” said Lanham. “Sometimes, these guys got to look in the mirror themselves and figure out what they want to do. You cannot follow the path of least resistance and be successful. That’s just a problem. And that’s what we’re doing right now. And it just shows.”


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