The wrestling team continued its dual meet winning streak this weekend with another quality win, this time over Rutgers at Memorial Gym in Charlottesville. The squad continued to prove its mettle, winning its 6th straight match by taking seven out of ten weight classes.
Though a loss to Rutgers would have been a disappointment for the 20th-ranked Cavaliers, the path to victory was what impressed. The Red Knights don't have a deep team, but they do have a couple impressive individual wrestlers. The inconsistency of their team has shown in both impressive wins over #25 Old Dominion, Harvard, and Navy and also a two-game losing streak to Hofstra and West Virginia that sent them out of the rankings.
The victory was even more meaningful considering two giant holes in the UVA lineup. Matt Snyder and Matt Nelson, 11th and 20th ranked in the nation, both missed their matches because of injuries. This delivered an early 6-0 lead to Rutgers when UVA was forced to forfeit at 125 pounds. Joseph Martinez filled in for admirably for Nelson, eking out a 7-5 victory.
Virginia sealed the win by taking care of the Red Knights' big guns at 149 and 165 pounds. Gus Sako picked up the upset of the day, defeating fifth-ranked Mario Mason to break a 6-6 tie in the match. Sako grabbed a quick takedown for an early lead and managed to hold Mason down for much of the third period, earning a bonus point for riding time and not allowing enough time for a late comeback in a 5-3 win. At 165 pounds, Virginia's #17 Nick Sulzer won a showdown against #17 Scott Winston; Sulzer led 3-2 in the third period and converted another takedown to win by a 5-2 final.
Don't overlook this team in postseason competition. Virginia's only loss this season came against a tough Virginia Tech team in the final seconds of overtime in the final bout. Since the loss, UVA has demolished its dual meet opponents; its closest competition was its meet with #17 Maryland, a match the Hoos won 22-14 and had locked up with 2 bouts left to wrestle. Though the team's depth is more of an asset in dual meets than tournament play, the Hoos still have plenty who could compete for ACC and national championships.
The team hits the road next week, traveling to Boone, NC to take on Appalachian State. It's a welcome change of pace for a group that hasn't wrestled away from Mem Gym since early January. UVA returns home February 19th to complete its regular season schedule with back-to-back meets against in-state rivals #25 Old Dominion and George Mason.