NC State wrestling blisters Duke, 34-6, in ACC opener

Wolfpack uses eight straight victories to dominate Blue Devils and earn fifth dual win

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
N.C. State's Sam Speno wrestles against Duke's Xaviel Ramos in the ACC opener at Reynolds Auditorium on Wednesday

RALEIGH — Duke started strong, but simply couldn’t hang with NC State wrestling in the ACC opener for both teams. The Wolfpack cruised after losing the first two matches thanks to decisive victories from four ranked wrestlers in a 34-6 dual win.It was NC State’s fifth win of the season in duals coming off a sixth-place finish at the Midlands Championship. Kevin Jack continued his momentum from winning the prestigious tournament at the 141 weight class with a massive win over Duke’s Zach Finesilver.”I know if I’m just doing what I’ve done all year we can turn things around,” Jack, who won the second match of the night for the Pack, said. “I know in the spot that I’m in and the guys who are around me, we can change the outlook on any night. That’s what we did tonight.”Duke’s Jacob Kasper got the night started with a 3-0 decision over Michael Boykin for the Blue Devils. Kasper, the No. 8 heavyweight in the country, scored a takedown in the first period and an escape in the second to earn an early advantage.Thayer Atkins (125) followed up Kasper’s decision with another decision, 11-6, over NC State’s Tommy Cox to earn an early 6-0 lead. But the tide would turn in the Wolfpack’s favor after Atkins’ win with eight straight decisions for State.”We got down early, but we knew what was coming,” NC State head coach Pat Popolizio said. “When you have guys like Kevin [Jack] and Sam [Speno] heading to the mat, you know you’ve got a chance to build momentum.”No. 15 Jamal Morris (133) took a decisive 16-3 lead before appearing to get winded, ultimately taking the decision by a 17-10 tally over Cole Baumgartner thanks to riding time. No. 2 Jack (141) then moved to 21-1 with a 16-0 technical fall over Finesilver in a dominating performance.The win for Jack was expected, but Morris was making his dual debut and barely made weight, according to Popolizio. He knew the spot was huge for the team, and he had just one thing on his mind.”I just wanted to dominate,” Morris said. “I wrestled him last year and pinned him in 90 seconds at the Wolfpack Open. I had confidence I could do it again, but it didn’t end up the way I wanted it to. … I’ve still got some catching up to do, but I’m happy with the way I wrestled.”No. 14 Sam Speno (149) continued the snowball effect for NC State, earning a major decision 17-7 to take a 12-6 lead into the break. Thomas Bullard carried the momentum into the second half of matches, securing an intense 7-6 win over Jake Faust in the 157 division followed by a Brian Hamann (165) technical fall over Joey Abbate.NC State clinched the match win with freshman Nick Reenan earning a forfeit with Duke not sending a wrestler to the mat. No. 11 Michael Macchiavello (184) and Malik McDonald (197) capped off the win with two major wins to tack on eight more points.The Pack now travels to Pittsburgh for the Pitt Duals against Harvard, Edinboro and Columbia on Saturday before facing UNC on Jan. 23. Meanwhile, Duke will welcome Appalachian State to Durham on Tuesday in search of its third dual win in January.