Matmen battle Scarlet Knights
Cavaliers attempt to keep winning streak alive after landmark victory against Maryland
The No. 20 Virginia wrestling squad looks to capture its sixth straight win as it takes the mat against Rutgers at Memorial Gymnasium tomorrow. Virginia (7-1, 4-1 ACC) comes in with plenty of momentum after a 22-14 upset victory against then-No. 13 Maryland last week.
"Make no mistake," coach John Garland said, "that's the biggest dual meet win in program history ... dual meets are all about momentum. If you come out fired up and, especially, win the first five weight classes like we did, that's how you win those dual meets."
As they enter the final stretch of their regular season before postseason competition begins, the Cavaliers hope to maintain their winning streak by defeating the Scarlet Knights (12-5).
"We have four or five duals left before the ACCs, and we have seven weeks left until Nationals," redshirt sophomore Jon Fausey said. "There's so much room for improvement. We're just training for March."
The squad, however, still needs to continue to improve, redshirt senior Nick Nelson said.
"We have less than two months left," Nelson said. "We need to keep getting better. It's such a grind and it's so hard, but one thing this team has really been great at is just having that passion every single day."
No. 14 Fausey has been a key contributor to Virginia's success on the mat, recently pinning Maryland redshirt sophomore Ty Snook to seal the Cavaliers' upset win against their conference rivals.
The Cavaliers need a similar display of dominance tomorrow to beat a scrappy Rutgers squad, which has been ranked as high as No. 14 and boasts three wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally. Recently, however, the Scarlet Knights have slipped from the rankings after losing three of their last four matches.
Spearheading the Rutgers squad is No. 5 redshirt junior Mario Mason, who advanced to the round of 12 at the NCAA Championships last year. Mason will face sophomore Gus Sako, who major-decisioned Maryland sophomore Ben Dorsay in a pivotal early match last time he took the mat. Sako has won his last three matches.
Garland said Sako is continuing to develop and lately has been wrestling "phenomenally."
The marquee matchup, however, takes place at the 165-pound weight class where No. 15 redshirt freshman Nick Sulzer squares off against the Scarlet Knights' No. 9 redshirt junior Scott Winston. Sulzer came within one point of handing Maryland's No. 2 junior John Asper his first loss of the season last Sunday, and he is poised for another chance at an upset victory.
"We think [Sulzer's] finally broken through, not just in competitions but especially in practice," Garland said. "We feel like he's so good [that] we expect so much out of him."
Along with Sulzer and Fausey, two other Cavalier wrestlers are ranked in the top 20 nationally this week. Redshirt junior Matt Snyder held steady at No. 11 while redshirt senior Matt Nelson entered the rankings for the first time in his career, joining his twin brother Nick. The brothers are ranked No. 20 and No. 8, respectively.
Snyder and the Nelson twins provide an invaluable boost for the Cavaliers in dual matches, often starting the Cavaliers off with three consecutive victories. The trio possesses a combined 52-8 record on the season. But the wrestlers' stellar records have not made them complacent.
"We're where we want to be right now, but we're not where we want to be by the end of the year yet," Snyder said. "We're going to do big things by the end of the year."
Tomorrow's match begins at 6 p.m.