Wrestling looks to extend win streak
Cavaliers face Duke, Old Dominion this weekend
Virginia looks to continue its successful season with two road matchups in the next three days. The Cavaliers (11-2, 1-0 ACC) will take the mat at Duke Friday before travelling to face Old Dominion two days later. Virginia is currently riding a four-match win streak, with the last win coming against No. 14 Edinboro.
The Cavaliers, currently ranked No. 12 in the nation, have already faced four ranked teams and sport a 2-2 record. This includes a win against rival Virginia Tech, who was ranked eighth when the two teams played.
“Our guys are tested from tough battles throughout the season and they are thriving,” coach Steve Garland said. “We are where we want to be right now.”
Virginia has beaten Duke (3-5, 0-1 ACC) eight consecutive times and shut the Blue Devils out last year, 38-0. The Cavaliers will be gunning for a ninth straight victory when the two squads meet Friday, but Duke has won its last two matches and will prove a formidable opponent.
“Past results are meaningless,” Garland said. “This is a new year and a new team, and we need to be ready to go out and battle or we could have some problems.”
Though Old Dominion’s record is weaker than Duke’s, the Monarchs (3-7, 0-2 MAC) have demonstrated an ability to compete with better opponents. They beat No. 18 Wisconsin and lost to No. 14 Edinboro by just one point. The Monarchs’ roster also boasts sophomore Chris Mecate, who is No. 4 in the nation at 141 pounds.
Virginia’s success this season has hinged on the middle and heavier weight classes. The Cavaliers currently have wrestlers ranked nationally at 141, 149, 157, 165, 174 and 184 pounds. Redshirt sophomore Blaise Butler has been particularly important for Virginia, gaining a No. 12 national ranking at 157 in his first season as a starter. Against Virginia Tech, with the Cavaliers down a point, Butler pinned his opponent to give the team the lead.
“Blaise is one of the most improved athletes I have ever seen,” Garland said. “Last year he was good, but this year he is on a whole new level.”
Redshirt junior Nick Sulzer has also been a standout for Virginia this year, most recently winning ACC Wrestler of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks. An All-American last year, he is ranked No. 2 at 165 pounds and has won 22 out of his 23 matches this season.
“I get to practice with the best every day,” Sulzer said. “We all get to wrestle with and benefit from each other, and I think that is really important in a strong lineup.”
Looking to this weekend’s matches, Virginia will have to face off against Duke’s Conner Hartmann, a ranked sophomore at 197 pounds. Old Dominion has three players who have been ranked at some point this season in addition to Mecate. Virginia redshirt junior Joe Spisak, who ranks No. 16 at 141 pounds, will likely face off against Mecate in what may be the toughest match for a Virginia wrestler all weekend.