The 33-year drought is over. After losing by two points the past two years, the Virginia wrestling team finally brought home the ACC Championship March 6 for the first time since 1977.\n"It was a very special moment," senior Ross Gitomer said of the team's victory. "It was a great all-around performance by everyone."
Two Cavaliers won individual championships and as a result, automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Overall, a total of eight wrestlers will compete for national titles, breaking the previous team record of seven, which was set last season.
Freshman Mike Salopek won one of the team's two individual championships with a victory in the 184-pound class. Salopek earned a bye into the semifinals and recorded two decisions to clinch the championship and his first appearance in the NCAAs. The finals victory was particularly sweet for the freshman, who defeated an opponent he had struggled against all season.
"[Salopek] stepped up pretty big," Gitomer said. "He won the title at 184 pounds by beating Tommy Spellman from Virginia Tech, whom he has had losses to previously. That was what topped the whole day, winning at the end to finish out the day."
Junior Chris Henrich recorded the team's other individual win, easily cruising to his second individual ACC Championship in the 174-pound weight class. With a bye into the semifinals, he racked up a pin and a tech fall to defend his 2009 championship and earn his third trip to the NCAAs.
"[Henrich] has been here for three years now and was with us every step of the way of all our close calls," he said. "He is our best wrestler and is essentially what won the tournament for us."\nAt 197 pounds, senior Brent Jones will make his second appearance at the NCAAs, after finishing third. He fell to North Carolina's Dennis Drury in the semifinals but won the next two matches to secure an NCAA bid.
In the 133-pound class, sophomore Derek Valenti had a bye into the semifinals but was defeated by Virginia Tech's Chris Diaz in extra time. Valenti pressed on, however, pinning his next two opponents to finish in third place and earn his first trip to the NCAAs.
Gitomer, who will make his second appearance in the championships, joins junior Jack Danilkowicz, sophomores Shawn Harris and Dan Gonsor, each of whom will compete for the first time.\nHenrich earned a No. 3 seed heading into the championships this weekend in Omaha, Neb. and will face a difficult road to the title.
"Being seeded No. 3 has a lot of pressure, but it brings with it good expectations," Garland said. "If he can go there and bring home a top-three finish and hopefully a national title, that would be huge for our program"