Feb. 11, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. ? NC State will wrestle one of its three remaining dual bouts of the 2010-11 season Saturday when the Pack takes on sixth-ranked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The match, part of a doubleheader for the Hokies, is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum.

Virginia Tech (16-4 overall, 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) has taken impressive dual-match victories this season from Central Michigan, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Lehigh. The Hokies have six starters ranked in the latest NWCA national top 20 poll, including two who are ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes.

?No doubt about it, this will be a challenge for us,? Wolfpack coach Carter Jordan said. ?Virginia Tech is a really good team and they?ve had a great season. For us, it?s about getting our guys ready for the ACC and national tournaments, and this match will be important in that regard. This match should affect seeding at our confernce tournament, and victories in this match could be meaningful when we award at-large bids for nationals. It?s an important match.?

Heading down the homestretch of the season, three wrestlers in the middle of the lineup have carried NC State. Junior 141-pounder Darrius Little (24-7), senior 149-pounder and former national champion Darrion Caldwell (10-0), and junior 157-pounder Colton Palmer (25-9) are a combined 29-3 since Jan. 1. All three are on track to compete at the NCAA Championships, which will be March 17-19 in Philadelphia, Pa.



Behind those three, junior 174-pounder Quinton Godley (18-14) has had a strong season despite a recent rough patch against very strong competition, including three matches at 184 pounds. Sophomore heavyweight Eloheim Palma (11-9) also has battled to find consistency but should be capable of scoring tournament points for the Wolfpack. ?I?ve said all along that Caldwell, Little and Palmer have been like money in the bank for us,? Jordan said. ?We know what we?re going to get from those guys and they?re right on track. They pretty much know at this point what they need to do over these last two weeks to get ready for the postseason.

?Quinton has wrestled much better than his record the last two weeks, and he?s capable of going to nationals and scoring points. Eloheim hasn?t been as consistent as he was a year ago, but he works as hard as anyone and is starting to wrestle much better. I believe in those two guys. Now we need some of these other guys to step up and show us that they?re ready for a larger stage.?

Saturday?s marquee matchup in Blacksburg should be Caldwell against 15th-ranked Brian Stephens (23-8). This will be Caldwell?s second match of the season against a ranked opponent. He previously hung a 3-1 decision on then-seventh-ranked Jamal Parks of Oklahoma State on Jan. 30. With that decision over Parks, Caldwell is 21-7 with six pins vs. ranked opponents for his career. He has won 11 of his last 13 bouts against ranked wrestlers.

An All-American in 2008 and NCAA champion at 149 in 2009, Caldwell brings a 104-12 career mark into the bout Saturday. With an .896 career winning percentage, a victory Saturday will lift him past Sylvester Terkay and into first place for career winning percentage at NC State. Caldwell also ranks second in school history in career victories and pins (57).

Other bouts of interest will include Little vs. 19th-ranked Chris Diaz (22-7), and Palmer vs. fifth-ranked Jesse Dong (11-1). Godley and Matt Epperly (10-12) at 174 and Palma vs. David Marone (14-7) could be big matches for NC State.

?It?s time to get it done,? Jordan said. ?We have two more duals after this one, so we?re not talking about a long-term process. The postseason is almost here. It?s time to see who?s ready.?

Following are the projected starters for Saturday?s dual between NC State and Virginia Tech:

#6 Virginia Tech (16-4, 3-0 ACC)
125 - #14 Jarrod Garnett (23-6)
133 - #10 Devin Carter (26-5)
141 - #19 Chris Diaz (22-7) or Zach Neibert (20-6)
149 - #15 Brian Stephens (23-8)
157 - #5 Jesse Dong (11-1)
165 - #14 Pete Yates (22-6)
174 - Matt Epperly (10-12) or Nick Vetterlein (12-9)
184 - John Dickson (15-14)
197 - Chris Penny (9-20)
Hwt - David Marone (14-7) *

NC State (8-8, 1-2 ACC)
125 - Mike Moreno (13-4) or Pedram Rahmatabadi (12-11)
133 - Dale Shull (7-6)
141 - Darrius Little (24-7)
149 - #1 Darrion Caldwell (10-0)
157 - Colton Palmer (25-9) or Matt Nereim (1-1/11-3)
165 - Nijel Jones (2-6/6-16) or Colin Genthert (5-15)
174 - Quinton Godley (17-12/18-14)
184 - Pat Carey (0-2)
197 - KaRonne Jones (10-19)
Hwt - Eloheim Palma (11-9)