The men's basketball team isn't the only team competing in the midwest today - the wrestling team is out in St. Louis, Missouri, competing at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Six UVA wrestlers qualified to compete for titles (just 32 qualify at each of the 10 weight classes - so it was a solid haul, and about where we'd expect to be). Last season, six also competed and led the team to a 23rd place finish, while eight qualified in 2010, propelling the team to 15th place. After one day and two rounds of competition, UVA is tied for 23rd place.
Individual competition brought some good news and some bad news. The good news? All 6 athletes have earned the team points and are alive headed into this morning's session. The bad news? They will all be competing in wrestlebacks, as each dropped one match and won a match in the double elimination tournament.
The day's first session consisted of 16 first round matches per weight class, and UVA came out of it with 3 wins. Eleventh-seeded Matt Snyder got the tournament started off right, earning a late reversal to spark a 3-2 victory over his opponent from Ohio State. #7 seed Matt Nelson held on for a 1-0 victory in his match, while #12 Jon Fausey romped to a 9-0 win. However, all three would drop their second session matches. Snyder fell in overtime, Nelson dropped a close match against Zach Neibert of Virginia Tech, and Jon Fausey lost a late lead when he was taken down with just seconds left. The competition in the second round winner's bracket was a disappointment for the Hoos; each of the three had the potential to make a deeper run, but all were defeated in close matches.
The other three Hoos took a different route to the same location in the loser's bracket. Matt Nelson, Gus Sako, and Nick Sulzer all had first round matches against higher seeded opponents. Nelson was pinned in just 2:22, while Sako and Sulzer put up an early fight before succumbing. Later in the day, each would advance. Sako moved forward when his opponent forfeited for medical reasons (hooray!), Nelson beat Jamie Franco of Hofstra, and Sulzer notched a 3-2 win after his opponent was penalized in the last minute of the bout.
Coach Steve Garland was, er, happy about the wins, but disappointed in the losses: "We started off advancing three guys and were riding high, then we lost three really tough matches. That was a pretty devastating round, but then we got three wins in the wrestlebacks, including Nick Sulzer's big win over a seeded guy who had beaten him earlier this year, so we're riding high again."
The importance of picking up points in wrestlebacks in tournament play is commonly discussed. With all six Cavalier wrestlers occupying the identical spot in the bracket (a distant 6 matches from a third place finish), it's obviously imperative that the Hoos grind out some wins if they want to compete for another top 25 finish.
You could follow live stats and check out highlights of yesterdays matches - or head over to ESPN3.com to try to catch the Hoos live.