The pairings for this weekend's ACC Championship have been released by the conference. After a 16-4 regular season, the Virginia wrestling team will look to win its first conference title since 2010 this Saturday in College Park. To do so, the Hoos, who also went 4-1 in the ACC and a perfect 7-0 at home, must outscore odds-on favorite Virginia Tech and the hometown Maryland Terps.
While the conference is always competitive, Virginia faces an especially tough field this year, not only because of the strength of VT and UMD, but also how UVA matches up with its rivals. The Hoos are certainly good enough to win it all and can take home the ACC title with an exceptional showing, but face an uphill battle in doing so.
For example, last season, UVA managed four number 1 seeds in their respective ten weight-classes. This season, despite a stronger overall squad highlighted by a #13 national ranking and two wrestlers ranked in the NCAA's top 10 in Matt Snyder and Nicholas Sulzer, Virginia has no wrestlers favored to win it all. Amazingly, Snyder, the 9th best in the nation at 125 pounds, is seeded 4th in the conference. Essentially, areas in which the Hoos would expect to be strongest are mitigated because of matchup issues with the rest of the ACC.
Besides Snyder's 4 seed, the Hoos have three #3 seeds and a conference-high six #2 seeds. There are six seeds at each weight class (one for each participating ACC school), with the top two receiving byes to the semifinals.
The good news is that, despite the lack of one-seeds, much of the team still did receive byes and easily have the potential to "upset" their opponents in the finals. In wrestling, it only takes wrong move for a top-seeded foe to find himself on his back, and this Wahoo squad is more than capable enough to capitalize. Additionally, the team's top to bottom consistency means UVA is well-positioned to pick up valuable points in wrestle-backs.
In conference play this year, Virginia fell to Virginia Tech, but swept the rest of its slate, including a win over Maryland in College Park. The Hokies actually defeated the Hoos twice in dual meets, once in an "out-of-conference" tournament. The Terps finished 3-2. UNC, Duke, and NCSU also fielded wrestling teams, and that's all we need to know.
The Hoos have finished the year winning 7 of its last 8 meets, the lone loss in Ithaca against #12 Nebraska. The team's other three losses this year came against teams ranked #4 (Iowa) and twice against #7 (VT). UVA has two wins against ranked teams, #24 Maryland and #19 Boise State. The full USA Today Top 25 is here.
Besides a conference title, performances this weekend at the University of Maryland tie into invitations to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines. Thirty spots are up for grabs, unevenly distributed across weight classes. If something goes horribly awry for an otherwise qualified athlete, a total of 40 wild card spots to that event will be awarded across the NCAA as well.
Full brackets could be viewed here. The ACC Tournament will start at 11 AM, and the finals will begin at 7 PM. You'll be able to watch the action online at ESPN3.com.