The stage was set at Memorial Gym in Charlottesville, where the Virginia and Maryland faced off in a duel meet that would determine the fate of the ACC's regular season. The 22nd-ranked Cavaliers entered at 3-1 in the conference, and #13 Maryland came in 3-0, undefeated overall on the season. However, neither team had seen much in the way of quality dual meet opponents - each saw their only ranked team in #23 Virginia Tech, with Maryland easily prevailing 25-10 in Blacksburg, and the Hokies winning at John Paul Jones in thrilling fashion.
This afternoon, the Cavaliers came out hungry to grab one of the biggest wins in program history. UVA jumped to a big early lead and clinched the match 8 bouts in, defeating Maryland by a 22-14 final tally.
The early run shifted momentum quickly to the Hoos; the team won the first 5 bouts to grab a commanding 16-0 lead. The day started at 125 pounds where Matt Snyder, 11th-ranked in the country, set the tone with a stifling 7-0 win over his 19th-ranked opponent. The Nelson twins increased the margin to 9 after Matt and Nick grinded out 5-2 and 4-2 wins, respectively. UVA then picked up bonus points on a major decision at 149 pounds and pulled off an upset when Jedd Moore defeated #11 Kyle John.
Maryland had tough match-ups for the Hoos at 165 and 174 and won both, fighting back to cut the lead to 16-7 with 3 bouts to go. With the Terps sending out top 10 wrestlers at 197 and 285 pounds, the 184-pound matchup between #14 Jon Fausey and Ty Snook of Maryland was going to be vital. A win for Fausey would guarantee that Maryland could at best force a tiebreaker scenario, while any bonus points would clinch the match for UVA. Fausey didn't blink, providing an exclamation point with a second period pin, giving the match and a share of the ACC regular season title to Virginia. Jon is now 8-0 in dual meets and, notably, has scored a team-high 40 points in those match-ups. The Terps took the final two bouts, meaningless to the outcome, as the Hoos prevailed 22-14.
With the win, Virginia has finished the ACC season at 4-1 and improves to 7-1 overall in dual meets with 4 remaining. Virginia Tech has already completed its slate and stands at 4-1 also, with its lone defeat at the hands of the Terrapins. Maryland, now 3-1, will finish off its season against lowly Duke, which shouldn't give the Terps much trouble. UVA, UMD, and VT should all share finish their seasons tied for first.
A well-defined separation exists in the ACC, with the 4-1 trio similarly talented and atop the conference. NC State, UNC, and Duke (the other ACC schools that field wrestling teams) are a combined 0-8 against the upper half; NC State still has a chance to separate themselves from the muddle in the basement, as they have meets against the Tar Heels and Blue Devils to come.
UVA continues its season next weekend when a tough Rutgers team (currently just outside the top 25) visits Memorial Gym. The ACC Championships will be held March 3rd in Chapel Hill and should be a closely-contested battle to determine the team ACC champion, as well as a great chance to watch some rematches of the close matches we have seen this year, especially against the Hokies. Congrats to the wrestling program on establishing itself in the ACC's elite with the big win.
(Video highlights of the match should be available this evening on VirginiaSportsTV. We'll get you a link to that when it is posted)