Virginia wrestlers face the nation's best
Cavaliers look to continue 2012's historic success at NCAAs
The most talented wrestlers in the nation assembled at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa Thursday for the start of the NCAA Championship. The action culminates on Saturday with the final round and coronation ceremony of 10 individual champions.
The 2013 edition of the tournament has already been historic for No. 13 Virginia (16-4, 4-1 ACC). A school-record nine wrestlers will take the mat, a number second only to Minnesota, Mizzou, Oklahoma State, Penn State and Virginia Tech this year. In a season filled with record-setting moments and team firsts, sending nine wrestlers may stand out as the biggest feat so far.
“It’s awesome to see how much this team has improved and banded together,” redshirt senior Matt Snyder said. “I think this is a testament to our coaching staff, and we expect this trend to continue in the years to come.”
Four Cavaliers were seeded in their individual bracket. Snyder and redshirt sophomore Nick Sulzer earned a No. 8 seed at 125 and 165 pounds, respectively. Freshman George DiCamillo received an 11 seed in the 133 pound bracket, and redshirt senior Jedd Moore was seeded No. 12 at 157 pounds.
Earning a national seed is certainly an honor for wrestlers nationwide, but it does not necessarily guarantee a victory at the NCAA Championship. Wrestling has often proved to have some March madness of its own.
“There are no easy matches out here,” Synder said. “You have to expect a battle in every single match or else that seed can become obsolete pretty quickly.”
Snyder will find himself in such a battle during his opening match as he wrestles Old Dominion redshirt freshman Rob Deutsch. Snyder previously defeated Deutsch 1-0 in a Feb 10 match. If the first bout is any indication, Snyder will be involved in a struggle from the first whistle.
The only other Virginia rematch in the opening round occurs at 165 pounds. Sulzer faces Buffalo’s Mark Lewandowski, a redshirt senior. The duo squared off in November of 2011 in the Body Bar Invitational where Lewandowski defeated Sulzer 4-3 in a low-scoring affair.
The NCAA Championship has proven kind to Virginia in the last decade — six of the program’s 13 All-American selections have been earned in that time span. Redshirt senior Derek Valenti, a 2011 All-American at 149 pounds, will look to wrestle his way to consecutive All-American selections.
Valenti is just one of many Cavaliers with experience at NCAAs. Six other Virginia wrestlers have prior experience in the national championship, with only DiCamillo and redshirt junior Stephen Doty new to the experience.
Experience can only help the Cavaliers as they make a run through the tournament. Virginia boasts three straight top-30 team finishes, finishing as high as 15th in 2010, but the current wrestlers are aiming much higher.
A strong team finish would give Virginia one of the greatest season results in its history. But before the Cavaliers can focus on final results, they must first take care of their individual bouts.
“If we each perform to our capabilities individually, we can definitely crack into the the top eight as a team,” Snyder said.