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Cavaliers split pair of ACC matches at Memorial Gym

Henrich, Jones easily win weekend bouts against ranked opponents

Derek Valenti
Derek Valenti

The Virginia wrestling team defeated North Carolina but lost to Virginia Tech to begin its ACC schedule at Memorial Gymnasium this weekend.

Friday night the No. 16 Cavaliers (13-4, 1-1 ACC) hosted the Tar Heels in a hard-fought 23-12 victory. The meet began in the 197-pound weight class, as No. 20 senior Brent Jones pulled an upset against No. 12 Dennis Drury to give Virginia an early 3-0 lead. North Carolina came back with freshman Ziad Haddad posting a 10-3 win against senior Jack Danilkowicz, to tie the score.

Senior Ross Gitomer helped the Cavaliers retake the lead with a major decision against the Tar Heels' Brian Bokoski at 125 pounds. Virginia's lead proved insurmountable as the Cavaliers won five of the last seven bouts to earn the ACC win.

"With conference opponents, you have bitter rivalries with everyone," Jones said. "With North Carolina, we have a long history, and going against them you always have to be ready. That's what we were, and we came in with guns a-blazing, so to speak, and it turned out well for us."

Though the Cavaliers managed to keep the Tar Heels at bay for most of the evening, a Virginia loss kept the matchup close. During his bout in the 149-pound class, senior Kellon Balum suffered an injury, ultimately taking the injury default despite his efforts to continue.

Virginia was able to offset the loss, however, with one of the evening's more notable wins in the 157-pound class, as sophomore Shawn Harris, who recently changed weight classes, upset No. 6 Thomas Scotton.

"It was one of the most special matches I have been a part of," coach Steve Garland said. "Shawn Harris bumped up a weight class to take down the sixth-ranked guy in the country from Chapel Hill."

Making the win even more unlikely was the fact that Harris only recently returned from a potentially career-ending injury.

"Last year Shawn was told he may not be able to wrestle again," Garland said. "He was born with a congenital spine disorder, and the fact that he was able to rehab through all of that is very special."

The Cavaliers, however, knew they could not rest after Friday's win, as an even larger foe lay ahead in No. 14 Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon. The Hokies wasted no time in winning the first four bouts to take an early 13-0 lead. Virginia finally put some points on the board with No. 4 junior Chris Henrich's forfeit victory at 174 pounds.

The Virginia matmen recouped some momentum after Henrich's win and pulled within striking distance. Jones posted his second win of the weekend in a major decision at 197 pounds against the Hokes' Chris Penny, to bring the score to 16-10. The deficit was cut to three as Danilkowicz posted a victory against Tim Miller at heavyweight.

Virginia failed to overcome Tech's lead, splitting the remaining bouts to fall 19-16 to the Hokies. Despite the loss, Virginia demonstrated its ability to compete with the best in the conference - five of the afternoon's contests were decided by three points or fewer.

Virginia has struggled at times to maintain intensity after a big win this season - as evidenced in its loss to Virginia Tech.

"We came out a little bit flat from the beginning," Jones said. "But I don't think it is because the energy wasn't there. We came on strong toward the end of the matches, but we need to be more prepared in the first 30 seconds."

The Cavaliers will return to action next weekend in New Jersey, taking on Rutgers and Princeton.

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