After a big win last weekend over #13 Pittsburgh, the twelfth-ranked UVA wrestling team failed to take a firm grasp of the ACC lead, falling on the road to #9 Virginia Tech 18-16.
The meeting was a rematch of the teams' meeting during the Virginia Duals under a month ago. The Hokies won that one 16-15, with its bonus points in one bout making the difference. This time in Blacksburg, with the meet counting for the conference standings, the Cavaliers once again split the ten matchups 5-5; and once again, Tech prevailed behind three major decisions to UVA's one. (Major decisions are victories by 8 or more points; they are worth four team points, as opposed to the three for a decision.)
UVA's Blaise Butler got the team off to a fast start with a big 3-2 win against a quality opponent at 174 pounds. But Tech's Austin Gabel's 11-2 win turned the tide, and two more Tech wrestlers, ranked #4 and #12 in their respective weight classes, earned 4 points as well. Still, the Hoos were very much in the match, leading by 1 with three bouts to go. But Virginia Tech won the next two, going ahead 18-12. Nick Sulzer needed a pin to win, and earned a 12-3 major decision instead.
"Their stars shined brighter today than ours," Virginia head coach Steve Garland told VirginiaSports.com. "Their bonus points won the duals. We both won the same number of matches, but overall they outwrestled us. There really is no way to candy coat it. Hopefully our guys will learn from this and use it as motivation going to Chapel Hill next week."
The Hoos are still in okay shape in the ACC, which is essentially a three-team race between UVA, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. The Hokies and Panthers square off this weekend in Blacksburg. A Tech win would likely seal the ACC regular season title, while a Pitt victory probably results in a three-way tie (assuming all three teams go undefeated against the "lower tier" of the conference, UNC, NC State, and Duke). The teams will settle things in a tournament setting on March 8th at the ACC Championships in Pittsburgh.