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ACC Wrestling Championship Preview - UVA with 3 top seeds

Andrew Carpenean-US PRESSWIRE

The ACC has released the brackets for this weekend's ACC Tournament, and #12 Virginia and #10 Pitt each have an ACC-leading 3 top-seeded wrestlers. The tournament will take place Saturday in Blacksburg, VA (the sites rotate around the ACC), and Virginia will be looking for its first title since 2010.

The team is coming off yet another banner regular season under Steve Garland, who was responsible for the restoration of the once dormant program. The Hoos finished 18-3, the second-most dual meet wins in program history; the three losses came at the hands of #10 Pitt, #15 Wisconsin, and #18 Lehigh. UVA swept the remainder of their ACC schedule, and have wins over ranked #13 Edinboro, #16 Virginia Tech, #28 Kent State (twice), and #31 Old Dominion. The team enters the tournament red hot, having won 11 of their last 12 meets.

The ACC features a large gap between Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Virginia Tech and the rest (with Maryland somewhere in between). Pitt, UVA, and VT were a perfect 12-0 against the bottom four in the conference this season. And while the regular season champion Panthers (a championship recognized for the first time in the ACC this year) are the favorites this weekend, Virginia does have the depth to challenge in a tournament setting, with the Hokies a bit more of a long shot, but in the hunt as well. (Tech will also have the nice boost of competing in their home gym).

Gus Sako, Blaise Butler, and Nick Sulzer were the three Hoos to receive 1-seeds and byes directly to the semifinals in the 7-team brackets. Virginia has a total of three 1-seeds, two 2-seeds, three 4-seeds, and two five seeds. Pitt's got three 1-seeds, three 2-seeds, a 3-seed, two 4-seeds, and a 6-seed. The fact that Jon Fausey at 184 pounds is seeded 5th in his bracket is pretty amazing - he's ranked 16th in the NCAA (and 7 in RPI), though most of that came at 174 pounds. A total of 6 UVA wrestlers are ranked in the top 20 in InterMat.

To win, the Hoos will obviously need their favorites to come through; but they'll also need their lower seeded competitors to make nice runs, whether in the opening rounds or through the wrestle-backs, as past tournaments have ended as close affairs. And the team especially has to take advantage of opportunities to beat the Panthers. We can circle second-seeded Joe Martinez's potential finals meeting with Shelton Mack at 133 pounds; Martinez took a 1-0 decision during the teams' dual meet in January.

Here are the full brackets in PDF form or you can follow along once the tournament is underway here.The whole meet will be televised on ESPN3. Matches will begin at 10 AM, and the semis will start at 1 PM. Then, it'll be all wrestle-backs until the 7:30 PM finals.

Besides an ACC title, the tournament will also determine NCAA bids. The conference has 34 auto-qualifiers, with the additional potential for wild card qualifiers to the event in Oklahoma City.