Virginia Duals provide challenge for LHU wrestling

Lock Haven University’s Breylon Douglas wrestles in an NCAA wrestling match.

By SAM KUPERMAN

For The Express

LOCK HAVEN- The Lock Haven University wrestling team heads into Friday’s Virginia Duals as the No. 14 ranked team in duals per InterMat Wrestling. That status will be put to the test, with the Bald Eagles stepping into an eight-team event that features three other teams with national rankings, and countless-talented scrappers throughout this loaded tournament.

This is the third consecutive year that Lock Haven will wrestle in the Hampton Coliseum, taking part in an event that’s closing in on four decades of existence. This will be LHU’s 18th trip to the Virginia Duals.

After going 3-1 last season and 2-2 the year before, LHU will look to take the next step and triumph over a number of tough programs.

The first test will be Friday at 9 a.m. Lock Haven, who earned the No. 4 seed in the bracket, goes up against Virginia. With a 2-0 record against two rebuilding Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) schools in that of George Mason and Bloomsburg, this is Lock Haven’s first dual test of the season.

The Bald Eagles and Cavaliers met in 2017, with then-No. 24 ranked Virginia defeating LHU 31-11. Then a sophomore, Thomas Haines was one of two Bald Eagles to pull out a win, doing so via fall.

This year Virginia sits at No. 24 in InterMat’s tournament rankings, where Lock Haven is placed at 25. This has the makings of the most exciting match of day one.

While the Cavaliers are 7-5 overall and only 1-4 in the ACC, they seem to be hitting their stride. With a near win over a top 10 Missouri team on December 20, followed by a 3-1 showing at the South Beach Duals at the end of the month, there’s clear talent up-and-down the Virginia lineup.

The winner of this matchup has the pleasure of meeting either top seeded Arizona State (No. 16 per InterMat) or Oklahoma in the semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m. The loser has to wrestle again Friday at 1 against the team that falls in that Sun Devils-Sooners bout.

A potential ASU-LHU showdown would be especially interesting, given that the teams are slated for a dual January 25 at Red Lion High School.

The bottom of the bracket is highlighted by second-seeded Virginia Tech. The Hokies are currently No. 13 in the InterMat dual rankings. They initially face Chattanooga, while third-seeded Old Dominion will meet Kent State. ODU is 3-2, with a pair of very impressive early-season results; a 30-10 win at No. 11 Northwestern and a 16-15 loss against No. 5 NC State.

While it looks like No. 13 184-pounder Corey Hazel will remain sidelined with an injury he suffered in the George Mason dual back on November 30, LHU will still have the rest of its starters ready to go for the Virginia Duals.

However the bracket shapes up, Lock Haven will benefit in both the team and individual aspect of things.

Nationally ranked guys like Chance Marsteller (No. 4 at 165 pounds) and Thomas Haines (No. 11 at 285) can up their stock with wins over other ranked opponents. Wrestlers possibly on the cusp of national recognition (such as Kyle Shoop, the national leader in technical falls, at 141 pounds) can creep in there with impressive showings at this event.

By design Lock Haven goes with a tournament-heavy slate early, followed by a lot of duals in a short window in the later portion of the season. This helps the odds of staying up high in the rankings. The Bald Eagles can bolster their team resume and display their talents on a sizable stage, all in a two-day span.

There’s no question that LHU wrestling has a chance to make a real statement in this event, one that could have ripple effects heading into a three-week stretch of seven duals.

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