2022 NCAA Watch Party: Conference Weekend

Expect Chaos In Charlottesville: ACC Preview & Predictions

Expect Chaos In Charlottesville: ACC Preview & Predictions

The ACC Championships go down this weekend. Here's everything you need to know.

Mar 4, 2022 by David Bray
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Nearly two-thirds of the starters in the ACC will be headed to Detroit. In other words, this conference has an extremely high concentration of talent, and every match will matter.


125 lbs - 3 Automatic Qualifiers

Pre-Seeds

1. #19 Sam Latona, VT

2. #21 Jakob Camacho, NCST

3. #24 Gage Curry, PITT

4. Patrick McCormick, UVA

5. Spencer Moore, UNC

6. Logan Agin, DUKE

Sam Latona got off to a slow start this season, but he ended the year with another victory over Jakob Camacho, the NC State sophomore who was finished match away from All-American honors last season. Camacho appears to be dealing with injury recently, but he still looks like the favorite to make the finals opposite Latona. He's 2-0 against the 3-seed Gage Curry with majors in each contest.

Mike Mal's breakdown of the Latona vs Camacho rivalry

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Curry is looking to become a five-time NCAA Qualifier, so he looks like the most likely candidate to nab that third AQ spot. NCAA Qualifier Patrick McCormick, Spencer Moore, and Logan Agin round out the field.

Prediction: 1) Sam Latona 2) Jakob Camacho 3) Gage Curry 4) Patrick McCormick

133 lbs - 5 Automatic Qualifiers

Pre-Seeds

1. #4 Korbin Myers, VT

2. #18 Joseph Heilmann, UNC

3. #11 Micky Phillippi, PITT

4. #22 Kai Orine, NCST

5. #23 Brian Courtney, UVA

6. Drake Doolittle, DUKE

This is one of the deepest brackets in the tournament, but it still has a pretty big favorite in Virginia Tech's Korbin Myers, an All-American from a year ago. His semifinal opponent is a bit uncertain as both #22 Kao Orine and #23 Brian Courtney are both capable, but Orine's 10-5 decision over Courtney earlier this season suggests that he the NC State sophomore may be moving on.

the bottom half of the bracket is likely to feature a semi between #18 Joe Heilmann and #11 Micky Phillippi. These two have split in their two meetings with Heilmann taking the most recent in February dual.

Prediction: 1) Korbin Myers 2) Micky Phillippi 3) Joe Heilmann 4) Kai Orine 5) Brian Courtney

141 lbs - 4 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #12 Cole Matthews, PITT

2. #10 Kizhan Clarke, UNC

3. HM Ryan Jack, NCST

4. Collin Gerardi, VT

5. Dylan Cedeno, UVA

6. Patrick Rowland, DUKE

Pitt's Cole Matthews and Kizhan Clarke were responsible for two of the bigger upsets this season over three-time All-Americans at 141 lbs. Clarke knocked off Nebraska's Chad Red in November, and Matthews took out Michigan Olympian Stevan Micic in January. Matthews won his only meeting with Kizhan Clarke by a point last month, so the rematch is certainly in the balance.

Ryan Jack and Collin Gerardi are seeded to earn the remaining two AQ spots, but don't count Jack out in his semi with Clarke as their last meeting was a one point decision for Clarke.

Prediction: 1) Cole Matthews 2) Kizhan Clarke 3) Ryan Jack 4) Collin Gerardi

149 lbs - 4 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #3 Tariq Wilson, NCST

2. #6 Bryce Andonian, VT

3. #13 Josh Finesilver, DUKE

4. #16 Zach Sherman, UNC

5. #23 Jarod Verkleeren, UVA

6. Dan Mancini, PITT

At least one ranked wrestler won't earn an AQ spot here as it's one of the deepest weights in the conference. Tariq Wilson has been the class of the field. The two-time All-American has beaten everyone else in the bracket this year.

Bryce Andonian has used his fearless style to knock off the ranked guys at the weight other than Wilson and will look for another opportunity to beat Wilson this weekend. The first time was a 9-3 victory for Tariq, but if Andonian can make the right adjustments, he's capable of scoring big moves against anyone.

Duke's Josh Finesilver is the three seed and an All-American contender while UNC's four seed Zach Sherman has already earned AA honors and, while he has a losing record this year, he has no bad losses and is dangerous.

This weight is so deep that the five seed, Jarod Verkleeren, is ranked #23 in the country and owns a Cadet World title. While he has yet to beat the four guys seeded ahead of him this season, don't count it out.

Prediction: 1) Tariq Wilson 2) Bryce Andonian 3) Josh Finesilver 4) Zach Sherman 5) Dan Mancini

Mike Mal's breakdown of the Andonian vs Wilson matchup

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157 lbs - 5 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #4 Austin O'Connor, UNC

2. #15 Jake Keating, UVA

3. #10 Ed Scott, NCST

4. #22 Elijah Cleary, PITT

5. Wade Unger, DUKE

6. HM Connor Brady, VT

NCAA Champ Austin O'Connor headlines a weight that will send five AQ's to Detroit. He's the favorite. In the semifinals, he'll either see Duke's Wade Unger or Pitt's Elijah Cleary, opponents he's beaten this season 6-2 and 2-1 respectively. If Cleary and Unger's history repeats itself, that will be Cleary.

The bottom side of the bracket starts with a quarterfinal between Ed Scott and Connor Brady. This was a 4-3 decision for Scott in the final week of the season. A chalk result there sets up a semi between Scott and Jake Keating. While Scott has had an incredible season with wins over highly ranked opponents like #5 Quincy Monday and #8 Kaleb Young, he did take a loss to Keating this season in a high-scoring 11-10 affair. 

If Scott can solve the Keating puzzle, he'll get his first crack at Austin O'Connor this year. Last season, O'Connor won that bout by major decision, but Scott has shown significant improvement this year and would look to show it against a guy who beat him soundly a season ago. If Keating makes the final against O'Connor, he'll look to reverse a 6-4 loss from January.

Prediction: 1) Austin O'Connor 2) Ed Scott 3) Jake Keating 4) Elijah Cleary 5) Connor Brady

165 lbs - 3 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #11 Jake Wentzel, PITT

2. #22 Thomas Bullard, NCST

3. #23 Justin McCoy, UVA

4. Clayton Ulrey, VT

5. Isaias Estrada, UNC

6. Gabe Dinette, DUKE

NCAA finalist Jake Wentzel has competed this season with a target on his back, and even though he's been upset several times throughout the year, he remains unbeaten against ACC opponents. His closest bout was a tie-breaker overtime match with second-seeded Thomas Bullard in February. Bullard and Wentzel are both difficult to score on, and this rematch could go either way.

Bullard is looking to become a five-time NCAA qualifier and an All-American for the first time. He'll expect to see third-seeded Justin McCoy in the semis, a guy he beat 4-1 in February.

Prediction: 1) Thomas Bullard 2) Jake Wentzel 3) Justin McCoy 4) Clayton Ulrey

174 lbs - 4 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #8 Clay Lautt, UNC

2. #5 Hayden Hidlay, NCST

3. #6 Mekhi Lewis, VT

4. #15 Matt Finesilver, DUKE

5. Justin Phillips, UVA

6. Hunter Kernan, PITT

The final weekend of the year threw a wrench in the seeds many people expected to see at this weight. Clay Lautt upset three-time All-American Hayden Hidlay who then beat NCAA Champion Mekhi Lewis, who owns a 6-2 decision over Lautt. The result is that Lautt got the top seed and Hidlay vs Lewis will be a semi (assuming Lewis dispatches Pitt's Hunter Kernan) instead of a final.

Lautt will expect to see #15 Matt Finesilver in the semis in a rematch of a bout he won 8-5 in January.

Prediction: 1) Hayden Hidlay 2) Clay Lautt 3) Mekhi Lewis 4) Matt Finesilver

Mike Mal's breakdown of the Hidlay vs Lewis matchup

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184 lbs - 5 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #3 Trent Hidlay, NCST

2. #18 Gavin Kane, UNC

3. #11 Hunter Bolen, VT

4. HM Michael Battista, UVA

5. HM Gregg Harvey, PITT

6. Vincent Baker, DUKE

The top five at this weight are all ranked in the top 33 in the country with undefeated NCAA finalist Trent Hidlay leading the pack. Gavin Kane and All-American Hunter Bolen will expect to see each other in the semis. Kane won their first meeting earlier this year in sudden victory.

Hidlay's semi will be against either Michael Battista or Gregg Harvey. Battista beat Harvey 9-5 earlier this season.

In the likely event that Hidlay makes the finals, he'll likely see either Bolen or Kane. Hidlay majored Kane in their only meeting but has a storied rivalry with Bolen who owns a 3-2 record against Hidlay although Trent has won the last two meetings.

Prediction: 1) Trent Hidlay 2) Hunter Bolen 3) Gavin Kane 4) Michael Battista 5) Gregg Harvey.

197 lbs - 3 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #14 Isaac Trumble, NCST

2. #15 Nino Bonaccorsi, PITT

3. #18 Jay Aiello, UVA

4. HM Max Shaw, UNC

5. HM Dakota Howard, VT

6. Kaden Russell, DUKE

Freshman Isaac earned the top seed in a bracket that includes NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorsi, U23 World bronze medalist Jay Aiello, and a total of five guys ranked in the top 33 in the country. This loaded group is competing for just three AQ spots.

Bonaccorsi has the credentials on the big stage, but Trumble has had his number in their first two meetings. For that final to happen, Trumble will need to beat either Max Shaw or Dakota Howard, guys he's already beaten this season, and Bonaccorsi will likely need to take out Jay Aiello, a guy he's beaten four times in the last two seasons.

Prediction: 1) Nino Bonaccorsi 2) Isaac Trumble 3) Jay Aiello 4) Max Shaw

285 lbs - 3 Automatic Qualifiers

1. #17 Nathan Traxler, VT

2. HM Tyrie Houghton, NCST

3. Jake Slinger, PITT

4. HM Quinn Miller, UVA

5. Jonah Niesenbaum, DUKE

6. Brandon Whitman, UNC

This bracket has major upset potential. Stanford transfer Nathan Traxler is looking to become a five-time NCAA qualifier and an ACC champion in his first attempt. He won't have an easy road to accomplish this, however, as Virginia's Quinn Miller, who beat him in February, is his likely semifinals opponent. 

On the bottom half of the bracket, sixth-seeded Brandon Whitman will look to pull an early upset over third-seeded Jake Slinger who he's 2-0 against. The winner gets NC State's Tyrie Houghton in the semis. Houghton has a win over Slinger but lost to Whitman two seasons ago.

Prediction: 1) Nathan Traxler 2) Brandon Whitman 3) Tyrie Houghton 4) Quinn Miller