Unlike the football team Saturday, 22nd ranked UVA wrestling provided plenty of excitement, but they ultimately failed to avenge our football loss to the Hokies. In the first ever duel meet at John Paul Jones Arena, 18th ranked Virginia Tech did just enough to come away with a win.
The match promised to be one between two evenly matched teams, and it didn't disappoint. One would be hard-pressed to find a more closely-contested meet. In only one bout did a wrestler pick up bonus points for his team, when Jon Fausey notched a major decision at 184 pounds. That victory gave the Hoos a 13-12 lead with two bouts left. Ryan Malo put up a great fight at 197 pounds, but fell to 16th-ranked Nick Vetterlein 4-2 to give the Hokies a 15-13 advantage and set up a winner-take-all heavyweight matchup between UVA's Ethan Hayes and Tech's Chris Penny. (A match is worth 3 team points for a decision, 4 points for a major decision of between 8-14 points, 5 points for a technical fall of over 15 points, and 6 for a fall, or a pin).
The drama of the last bout brought the large crowd at JPJ to its feet, as it chanted "Ethan!" throughout the match and roared when points were scored. Hayes scored 2 points for a near fall, only the second set of back points for either team in the afternoon, in the 3rd period to take a 4-2 lead, which Penny cut to 4-3 with an escape. Thought it appeared time may elapse, giving the match to UVA, Penny picked up a takedown on the edge of the mat with 7 seconds to go. Needing an escape to force overtime, Hayes pulled off a clutch rolling kick out to tie it up, with the crowd at fever pitch. However, a takedown late in the sudden-death period sent the Hoos home unhappy again.
The matchup of the day was probably the first one, between UVA's Matt Snyder, 14th ranked in the nation and not related to our wide receiver, against Ty Mitch from Tech. Though Snyder trailed by two to start the last period, he gained a point when Mitch was called for stalling and then one for riding time, garnering enough time by no more than a couple of tenths of a second. (At the conclusion of each bout, if one wrestler has a net advantage of a minute or more in time in control, he gains a point). The first one minute sudden death period ended scoreless, and Snyder picked up an escape late in the second period of double overtime to give the Hoos their first victory of the day.
Despite the disappointing outcome, it was great to see such a fantastic crowd for this matchup, and only fitting that it end in such an exciting fashion. One has to give credit to the Athletics Department for moving this match to JPJ, for space constraints of Mem Gym if nothing else; hopefully, the atmosphere we witnessed encourages more fans to come out for the rest of our ACC slate this winter. Additionally, I would love to see 1 or 2 of our bigger matches held at JPJ every year.
Though the Cavaliers lost their leader from last year, All-American Chris Henrich, we could expect another competitive campaign. Head Coach Steve Garland has the program on the right track, as one of the nation's premier up and coming squads. The team continues its season next weekend in State College at the Penn State Open; however, our next chance to see a home match won't be until Duke visits on January 20th.