Virginia rolls past Gardner-Webb, 30-11 in home opener

Cavaliers pick up their first win of the season

sp-WreslingHayes-courtesyvirginiaathletics

Redshirt freshman Louie Hayes — ranked No. 18 nationally at 125 pounds — started the Cavaliers off with a lead Friday. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The Virginia wrestling team rolled past Gardner-Webb in dominant fashion Friday, relying on early bonus point victories from their pair of nationally-ranked young standouts to provide the spark that the Cavaliers (1-2, 0-0 ACC) needed to win.

Redshirt freshman Louie Hayes, ranked No. 18 nationally at 125 pounds, started the match off with a bang, pinning his opponent to boost Virginia to a big lead early. Sophomore Jack Mueller, ranked No. 8 at 133 pounds, followed up Hayes’ commanding performance with a technical fall victory, putting the Cavaliers up 11-0. From there, the Cavaliers never looked back.

“Right off the bat, our two most highly-ranked guys got a pin and a tech back-to-back,” Virginia Coach Steve Garland said. “They were awesome, we’re banking on that all year, for those two to start us off.” 

After the hot start, Virginia sophomore Sam Krivus kept the ball rolling with a major decision, putting Virginia up 15-3. The Cavaliers had no answer, however, for junior standout Tyler Marinelli of the Runnin’ Bulldogs (0-4, 0-0 SOCON), who won by technical fall. This put the score at 15-8 in favor of the Cavaliers, with Gardner-Webb threatening to come back.

Virginia senior Andrew Atkinson — who stymied the brief run by Gardner-Webb with a decisive pin — placed the Cavaliers in total control of the match. He was followed up by a hard-fought decision for junior Will Schany to put Virginia up 24-8.

The Cavaliers capped off the successful night with another promising showing from redshirt freshman Jay Aiello and a thumping decision for sophomore Tyler Love to bring the match to a close. The heavyweight wrestler was quick on his feet, using agility to come up with multiple takedowns. Love credited his coaches for his success, noting a change in style.

“I’m really light for the weight class,” Love said. “The coaches have just been working on how to change my style to better wrestle … I think tonight I listened to my coaches for a change, and it worked.” 

Overall, it was an inspiring performance from a Virginia team that bounced back after a tough first weekend. Garland was pleased to see his wrestlers fighting for extra points. 

“The big thing was bonus points… we’ve been preaching bonus points all year,” Garland said.

Certainly, this is a young Virginia wrestling team. This has led to an inevitable adjustment period and growing pains early in the season, as Garland continues to instill the right techniques in his players.

However it is clear that the key to continued success for the Cavaliers lies in the performance of its youth, with only two upperclassmen — Atkinson and Schany — in the team’s starting lineup. The young wrestlers performed brilliantly Friday, and Virginia hopes they will only continue to improve as the season progresses.

Virginia will take some time off during the Thanksgiving break before returning to action at home next Sunday against Missouri at 1 p.m., in an attempt to expand upon a great effort Friday night. 

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