App State wrestling falls to top 10 Virginia Tech


Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics

App State fell to No. 9 Virginia Tech in Varsity Gym in Boone Jan. 13, 2023.

Ben Brady, Reporter

No. 22 App State wrestling fell 23-11 to No. 9 Virginia Tech Friday in a match featuring multiple highly ranked wrestlers. 

The score remained close through the first half of the match, but the Hokies pulled away by winning six of their final seven matches. The Mountaineers had three matches go into overtime and lost three matches by two points or less.

While head coach JohnMark Bentley’s program did not get the result they were hoping for, he noted the positive effort from his wrestlers and what they can take away from the match.

“I thought we executed well and had a great effort tonight,” Bentley said. “I think the ultimate deciding factor was that we lost three really close matches. We didn’t win any of those matches, and that’s what we needed to do, but that’s a really good team and we’ll keep getting better from it.”

Redshirt senior Jon Jon Millner, ranked eighth nationally, began the action in the 149 pound match against No. 11 Caleb Henson. The highly-ranked matchup wrestled into overtime, where a takedown from Henson secured a 6-4 victory and gave the Hokies an initial lead. 

The loss gave Millner, a two time All-American and three time conference champion, just his third loss of the season, and broke his streak of 34 consecutive dual victories. Millner understood the importance of learning from his loss. 

“There are things I can work on, like finding ways to get those takedowns, especially in the third period,” Millner said. “Even wrestling better at the end of periods. I think that’s what killed me tonight.”

Sophomore Tommy Askey put the Mountaineers in the scoring column with a 14-4 major decision victory at 157 pounds. Fifth-year redshirt junior Will Formato followed up with another major decision at 165 pounds, including a four-point near fall to clinch a 12-0 victory. 

At 174 pounds, No. 31 sophomore Will Miller faced Mekhi Lewis, an NCAA champion and two-time finalist currently ranked third in the country. Facing a 3-5 deficit late in the final round, Miller recorded a take down to tie the match at five a piece. However, with under 10 seconds remaining, Lewis recorded an escape to take a 6-5 lead and secure the close victory. 

Redshirt freshman Luke Uliano fell 5-1 by decision to Hunter Bolen, ranked seventh nationally at 184 pounds, to give the Hokies a 9-8 lead overall. From there, freshman Carson Floyd at 197 pounds and heavyweight Mason Fiscella each dropped major decisions, extending the Hokies lead. 

Twenty-first ranked redshirt sophomore Caleb Smith competed in the third and final ranked match of the night against Eddie Ventresca, ranked 20th. Tied at two a piece after two rounds, Smith recorded an acrobatic escape from a takedown attempt and followed it up with a pair of takedowns to secure an 8-3 victory. 

Smith emphasized the importance of having confidence in himself and in his team heading into tough, competitive matchups. 

“It’s important for me to know that I could beat anybody, but also from the match as a whole, to know that we can compete with anybody,” Smith said. “If we know that before we step on the line, it’s gonna be dangerous for nationals.”

After a 1-1 tie through three periods, Sean Carter fell 3-1 following a takedown in overtime in the 133 pound bout, and sophomore Heath Gonyer closed the match with a 9-4 decision loss, sealing the Virginia Tech victory. 

In a match defined by close outcomes, where just a few points could have shifted the scoring margin in either team’s favor, Bentley said that small details have big impacts on his team’s outcome. 

“We made a lot of small errors and those errors added up to make big differences in some matches, so we’ve got to clean some things up,” Bentley said. “Stuff like that comes back to haunt you, so we just have to do a better job of that going forward.”

The Mountaineers return to action Sunday as they travel to The Citadel for a conference dual, and return home Tuesday against Duke.