After beginning the season at VMI's Keydet Invitational, the action returns home where the Cavalier wrestling team, led by Coach Lenny Bernstein, will take on John Trudgeon's Keydets, in their first dual meet of the season.
Last weekend, Virginia wrestled in the 1999 Cliff Kenn Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational, in which some of the nation's top wrestlers contended for a title. Cavalier fourth-year captain Steve Garland finished second in the 125-pound weight class, posting a tournament record of 5-1.
The pivotal matches of the night will be in the middleweight classes, from 133 to 165 pounds, where VMI has many strong wrestlers.
"They're pretty good through the middle with Matt Erwin at 165 and Gill Decher at 157," Bernstein said. "Their 133 pounder Oliver Ruiz, a sophomore, will also give us a lot of trouble."
However, the Cavs will look to take the lead early in the meet, relying on the talent of their lower weight classes, led by Garland, one of the nation's top 125-pound wrestlers. Third-year, 133-pounder Toby MacDonald also will be an important factor in Virginia's success.
Virginia's fourth-year P.J. Bory or second-year David Santamaria will wrestle at 141-pounds against VMI's Adam Britt, a two-time Virginia State Champion.
At 157-pounds, Virginia's fifth-year John Pozniak or second-year Jeremy Kirk will take on VMI senior Gill Decher, while at 165-pounds second-year Brian Muir will face Matt Erwin of VMI. Muir came a away with a 1-1 record at the Las Vegas Invitational, recording an 8-3 decision over Kevin Brown of Clarion before being pinned by Ty Wilcox of Ohio State. Erwin, an NCAA qualifier, will pose a tough competitor for Muir.
From 174 pounds up, the Cavaliers should be able to rely on their wrestler to secure a victory.
"We feel like we have a stronger team than VMI," Bernstein said. "But, Coach Trudgeon has them in good shape so there will be many tough seven minute battles."
The Cavaliers, however, will be wrestling without 197-pound wrestler Craig Fenstermaker, who is ranked tenth in the NCAA this year. Fenstermaker is out of commission for the remainder of the season, as a result of a crushed disc in his back.
"It is very disappointing going into the season knowing that one of your best wrestlers will not be able to wrestle because of an injury," Bernstein said.
In the heavyweight match, Virginia first-year Josh Etu should easily dispatch VMI's Matt Miles. Earlier in the season Etu pinned Miles just 1:50 into their match at the Keydet Invitational. Etu pinned everyone he faced in that tourney. However, in the Las Vegas Invitational, Etu lost a close match 7-5 against Eric Rodreguez of Cal-Poly.
Trudgeon said his VMI team will be outmatched by Virginia, which is ranked second in the ACC.
However, he said they will have a chance to win if they can out-wrestle Virginia and steal some unexpected victories.
"They are a formidable opponent for us," he added. "They are one of the top teams in the ACC."