No. 13 wrestling edges Maryland, crushes Bucknell
Cavs win final ACC regular season match against Terps, No. 9 Sako returns from injury
The No. 13 Virginia wrestling team, coming off its first ACC loss of the season, captured a pair of home wins against Maryland and Bucknell this weekend. The Cavaliers (15-3, 3-1 ACC) narrowly escaped a late comeback by the Terrapins (5-8, 1-3 ACC) to prevail 16-15 Friday. Virginia then easily downed the Bison (7-9, 3-2 EIWA) 29-12 Sunday.
The team’s emphasis of the weekend was toughness — Virginia lost its fighting spirit against No. 7 Pittsburgh last Friday and would need to find it again. A gritty win against Maryland in front of a packed house at Memorial Gym showcased that patented Cavalier toughness.
“I saw a lot more fight this weekend,” coach Steve Garland said. “I was absolutely thrilled with our guys’ fight and their commitment.”
In a rivalry characterized by extremely close matches, Friday’s matchup — the final ACC regular season meeting between the two squads — was as competitive as ever. The teams split the 10 weight classes, each winning five bouts. A major decision victory by No. 2 redshirt junior Nick Sulzer proved to be the decisive factor in Virginia’s favor.
Sophomore Nick Herrmann secured the first win of the evening at the 125-pound weight class. Herrmann scored a takedown with a minute remaining in the first period to take a lead he would not relinquish, eventually prevailing 5-1.
The Terrapins then responded with two consecutive wins. Redshirt sophomore Joseph Martinez dropped a 12-6 decision to freshman Tyler Goodwin at 133 pounds and sophomore Shyheim Brown upset No. 17 redshirt junior Joe Spisak 5-3 at 141 pounds. Spisak gifted Brown four points due to stall warnings.
Virginia rattled off wins in the next four weight classes. No. 9 redshirt junior Gus Sako won by decision in his return from nearly a month-long injury. Sako rode a red-hot first period to secure an 8-3 win against senior Frank Goodwin and move to 15-1 on the season.
“Having Sako back is huge for us,” Garland said. “Psychologically we know we have a kid who can not only beat you but beat you badly.”
No. 15 redshirt sophomore Blaise Butler battled his way to a gritty 7-6 decision in the tie-breaking period after conceding a late point due to stalling to send the match into overtime. Sulzer cruised to yet another bonus-point victory, and No. 12 redshirt senior Stephen Doty also won 9-2 by decision for Virginia’s final points of the evening.
But Maryland would rally with the match still up for grabs. Top-ranked senior Jimmy Sheptock defeated No. 18 redshirt senior Jon Fausey 3-2. Fausey injured his left leg contesting a shot, but finished the match.
Redshirt sophomore Zach Nye dropped his match to No. 13 senior Christian Boley at 197 pounds to give the Terrapins a realistic shot at the victory. Down by four, Maryland required a major decision to send the match to criteria or a technical fall or better to win the match. Redshirt sophomore Ethan Hayes fought hard against No. 8 senior Spencer Myers, losing the contest by just one point to preserve the Cavalier victory.
“We knew Maryland would be a really tough opponent,” Spisak said. “They always scrap really hard, and we ended up gritting out that win.”
Sunday’s opponent, Bucknell, would prove to be more easily subdued. Virginia utilized four bonus-point victories to cruise past the Bison.
Herrmann dropped the day’s first match at 125 pounds to give Bucknell the early 3-0 lead. Martinez would quickly make up the deficit, however, with a 5-0 decision.
Spisak electrified Memorial Gym with a first-period pin. He secured an aggressive takedown and turned freshman Connor Lapresi within 30 seconds.
Sako then lost a heartbreaking match at 149 pounds, forfeiting a reversal late in the third period to tie the match at 6-6. Freshman Victor Lopez possessed the riding time advantage, giving him the extra point and the win.
The Cavaliers would pull away for good with three consecutive bonus-point victories. Butler easily handled his opponent to the tune of a 12-3 major decision, recording eight takedowns in his match, while Sulzer continued his dominant season with a 20-8 major decision.
“Sulzer continues to impress everybody,” Spisak said. “He’s been leading our team through some hard-fought battles, and he paves the way to some tough victories.”
Doty tacked an additional six points on the board with another pin near the close of the first period. Filling in at 184 pounds for an injured Fausey, redshirt freshman James Suvak won 4-2. Nye then scored a 6-1 decision at 197 pounds to take a 29-6 lead after nine of 10 bouts.
In a disappointing end to an otherwise positive day, Hayes surrendered a pin to No. 20 junior Joe Stolfi in the final bout to give the Bison six more points.
Virginia closes out its home schedule this Friday against conference opponent North Carolina. The match begins at 7 p.m.