BLACKSBURG — Mitch Moore got into the baseball spirit Sunday.
After pinning his Northwestern foe at English Field, the Virginia Tech wrestler pantomimed a home-run swing and peered into the outfield to watch his imaginary shot clear the fence.
“It was gone! It was gone!” Moore said later with a smile.
Wrestling outside for the first time in their history, the 11th-ranked Hokies rallied past No. 21 Northwestern for a 21-18 win at Virginia Tech’s baseball field.
Moore, who competed at 141 pounds in the third match of the day, said his home-run swing was a spur-of-the-moment celebration.
“It’s fitting for the environment, so I figured, ‘Why not?’ ” he said.
“How was my form? Was my form good?”
Although the event was billed as “Mat on the Mound” by Tech, the mat was actually placed over the home-plate area, not over the pitching mound. So the action took place right in front of the grandstand as 2,946 fans looked on.
“It was really cool,” said Tech heavyweight John Borst. “I’ve never wrestled on a baseball field before, or outside in front of a big crowd like this.”
The match was held on a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon — no-jacket-required weather for fans.
The Hokies (2-0) appreciated the weather, too.
“At first, when they told us that we were wrestling on the baseball field, I was kind of like, ‘I don’t want to do that. It’s going to be cold. It’s going to suck,’ ” Moore said. “But once it got to be Friday and I saw the weather, I got really excited.
“You couldn’t have had more perfect weather for this.”
Tech coach Tony Robie, who came up with the idea for the English Field match, was pleased with how the event turned out.
“It was a home run,” Robie said. “We obviously got really lucky with the weather, but the event itself I thought was fantastic. …The crowd was great.”
The Hokies enjoyed wrestling in the fresh air.
But the sunshine was not always appreciated.
“The sun was in my face a couple times,” said Tech’s Hunter Bolen, a Christiansburg High School graduate who won 14-3 at 184 pounds.
Northwestern (0-1) led 18-17 entering the final match of the day, but Borst beat Jack Heyob 9-0 at heavyweight to give the Hokies the victory.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Borst said. “I knew I was going to go out there and I was going to put on my show.”
Was it nice to come through in the bottom of the ninth inning, so to speak?
“I knew it was going to happen in the bottom of the ninth,” Borst said. “I was looking more for a walk-off pin, but it didn’t happen.”
The event also marked the first time Northwestern ever wrestled outdoors.
“It was a great experience,” said Northwestern coach Matt Storniolo . “I’m really thankful that the weather held out. It was a great venue. Tech did a great job giving the guys a fun atmosphere to compete in.”
During three breaks in the match, a Tech employee with a leaf blower stepped onto the mat.
“There [were] these little rubber pellets in the turf, and then they kept getting all over the mat, sticking to our shoes and stuff, so he was blowing them off,” Moore said.
The Hokies have now beaten two ranked foes this season, including a victory over then-No. 9 Missouri at Cassell Coliseum.
“It shows when we’re all firing and when we’re all ready and hyped up to go, we can go toe-to-toe with anybody,” Moore said.
But Robie said his team still has question marks, pointing to 149 pounds and 174 pounds.
Tech will hit the road next weekend to take on third-ranked Ohio State, which was the runner-up at the 2019 NCAA championships.
“Everyone’s just so excited to get their hands on the Ohio State guys and prove some things,” Borst said.
Would Tech wrestle at English Field again next year?
“It was a huge success, so why not?” Robie said. “For … the crowds that we get and our fan base, I think it’s the perfect outdoor venue for a wrestling match at Virginia Tech.”