After a long quiet period for the Virginia wrestlers, the team moved into the meat of its ACC schedule in style this weekend. With the two Carolina schools visiting, the Hoos had duel meets on back to back days and did not falter against lesser combination. The team took care of business in its 39-3 win over Duke and 24-10 victory against North Carolina.
Neither match ever figured to be much of a challenge for 22nd-ranked UVA, who improved to 6-1 on the year (3-1 ACC). Duke's wrestlers, winless in duel meets this year, have spent almost as much time on their backs as their counterparts on the basketball team. North Carolina's loss drops them to 2-10 on the year, with one of its wins coming against Duke in Chapel Hill. The teams have some familiarity this year; all competed at the Southern Scuffle in Chatanooga on New Years Day, with Virginia finishing in 6th out of 22 teams, UNC 12th, and Duke 19th.
Against Duke, UVA won 9 of 10 matches, most in dominating fashion. Six wins were by major decision (8 points or more), and two were by default. In fact, the Blue Devils finished the trip with just three takedowns. Virginia lost its opportunity to post a shutout when Sam MacGregor, wrestling in place of Nick Nelson, dropped a decision 8-2. However, Duke would drop its final 7 matches without threatening in any.
Coach Steve Garland was understandably pleased with the performance. ""I thought the guys wrestled great. The big thing with our guys is constantly scoring points. That's the identity of this team now, and we saw that last week against NC State. It doesn't matter what happens or what the score is, you just constantly need to think about scoring points and they will come."
The team picked up right where they left off the next afternoon. Fifteenth-ranked Nick Sulzer notched a 10-1 major decision to start off the day at 165 pounds, and #14 Jon Fausey won at 184, but UNC alternated wins also to bring the score to 7-6 UVA four bouts in. After that start, UNC would not see the scoreboard again until the day's final match. In the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, #10 Nick Nelson of UVA built and early lead and held on late to notch a 7-4 decision over #18 Evan Henderson.
By taking care of business against lesser competition, Virginia sets up an ACC showdown next weekend against #13 Maryland, Sunday at 1 PM in Charlottesville at Mem Gym. A win against the Terps next weekend will ensure at least a share of the regular season ACC title. While UMD is undefeated on the year, they will have a few built-in disadvantages. Notably, they will be coming directly from their match in Chapel Hill on Friday night; while they have the opportunity to rest wrestlers competing in a couple key spots, traveling to their 3rd ACC match in 7 days could pay a toll. In addition, if the atmosphere in Mem Gym is anything close to the scene during UVA's heart-wrenching loss to Virginia Tech at JPJ, it would be a significant boost.
Here are the current ACC standings with each team's remaining matches.
|Maryland (#13)||1-0||( vs. NC St., @UNC, @UVA, vs Duke)|
|Virginia (#22)||3-1||(vs. UMD)|
|Virginia Tech (#23)||2-1||(vs. Duke, vs. UNC)|
|North Carolina||1-1||(vs. UMD, @VT, @NC St)|
|NC State||0-2||(@UMD, vs. UNC, @Duke)|
|Duke||0-2||(@VT, vs. NC St. @UMD)|