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Cav wrestlers look to replace departed stars

One would think the graduation of two All-Americans would spell doom for this year's Cavalier wrestling squad, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

"Although we did lose two All-Americans, we still have the ability to achieve much success," 165-pound third-year Greg Francesca said.

"Our goal each year is to win the ACC Championships," Cav Coach Lenny Bernstein said. "We've taken second place each of the last three years, and I think this year we could win it."

Last year's Virginia squad not only finished an impressive second in the strong ACC but also served as the Conference's lone representative in the National Top 25 rankings at the No. 23 position.

This year's team hopes to return to the polls.

"There's no doubt we can be a Top-25 team this year," Francesca said.

But that task will be tough, especially without graduated fifth-year seniors Jim Harshaw and Matt Roth. After winning their respective weight classes in the ACC Championships, their showing in the NCAAs earned them both All-American nods. Roth finished seventh in the 125-pound division, while Harshaw took eighth in the 165-pound class.

Fortunately for the Cavs, they have a star-studded group of returnees as well as a fine crop of new additions to aid in Virginia's ACC title run.

"There's no doubt that our lower weight classes are our strength," Bernstein said. "The key is for us to win our 'toss up' matches in order to be successful."

The Cavaliers' lower weight contenders include No. 5-ranked Steve Garland at 125 pounds, who replaces Roth in that division. Dave Santamaria and Toby MacDonald will compete at 133 pounds, with co-captain P.J. Bory at 141 pounds and co-captain John Pozniak at 149.

"All of our lower weight guys are tough," Bernstein said. "Garland is one of the highest preseason ranked guys we've ever had. Santamaria wrestled MacDonald in the finals of our last tournament - which is very rare for two teammates to make it to the finals, and Bory and Pozniak are great leaders and great wrestlers."

But if the Cavaliers want to have any hopes for reaching their goals, they'll have to be able to take the mat first, something that becomes more difficult as the season progresses.

"It's a long season," Bernstein said. "And a lot depends on how the guys get up from tough times, take care of their injuries and learn to push through pain. It requires a lot of physical and emotional maturity."

A devastating blow to the team was Tuesday's news that fifth-year senior Craig Fenstermaker, a major asset to the team at 197 pounds, will be unable to wrestle in his final year because of a crushed disc in his back.

"Craig is ranked No. 10 in the nation in his weight class," Bernstein said. "It's a big blow to lose him. We knew he had some back problems but we were hoping he'd be okay."

With the loss of Fenstermaker, second-year Ryan McGrath at 184 pounds and heavyweights Ryan Painter and Josh Etu will be called upon to help ease the loss.

"McGrath has been doing very well," Bernstein said. "This could be his breakout year. As for Etu and Painter, the situation is the same for all of the weight classes where there is serious competition. It will be survival of the fittest. The battling makes everyone involved better, though."

And the Cavs should be in the fight for the esteemed ACC Championship at the conclusion of a long season.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Bernstein said. "N.C. State is probably the team to beat and North Carolina always has a good team. By the time we wrestle them, we should be ready to fight to the finish."

1999-2000 WRESTLING ROSTER

Joe Alexander

125

5-7

Fr.

Jason Bernd

133

5-7

Jr.

P. J. Bory

141

5-7

Sr.

Don Carlo-Clauss

149/57

5-7

So.

John Christopher

149/57

6-0

Jr.

Steven Culver

149/57

5-7

So.

Cartney Curnuck

157/65

5-11

Jr.

Josh Etu

HWT

6-2

Fr.

Craig Fenstermaker

197

6-1

Gr.

Tim Foley

149/57

5-9

Fr.

Gregory Francesca

157/65

6-0

Jr.

Steve Garland

125

5-6

Gr.

Marshall Hurley

184

6-2

Fr.

Jeremy Kirk

149/57

5-11

So.

Joey Legg

141/49

5-7

Jr.

Toby MacDonald

133

5-6

Jr.

Jimi Massey

174/184

6-0

Jr.

Stephen Mazzola

174

6-1

Fr.

Ryan McGrath

184

6-1

So.

Robbie Moutoux

174

5-10

So.

Brian Muir

165

5-10

So.

Matt Ounsworth

149/57

5-7

So.

Ryan Painter

HWT

6-4

Jr.

John Pozniak

149/57

5-9

Gr.

David Santamaria

133

5-6

So.

Bob Seidel

133

5-6

So.

Austin Shutt

149/57

5-8

Jr.

Colin Stewart

125

5-4

Fr.

Dave Takseraas

133

5-6

Sr.

Matt Viola

133

5-5

So.

Brian Voliva

174

5-11

Fr.

Jeremy Wilkins

HWT

6-1

Sr.

 

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