The No. 11 Virginia wrestling team enjoyed a successful weekend against a pair of Tobacco Road foes. The Cavaliers (11-3, 2-1 ACC) traveled to Chapel Hill Friday and throttled North Carolina 24-9. The Cavaliers returned to Charlottesville Sunday and blanked reeling Duke 38-0 in its first opportunity to compete in front of the Virginia faithful in nearly three months.
In the first match of the weekend the Cavaliers trailed the Tar Heels (4-4, 0-2 ACC) 6-3 after three matches, thanks in part to North Carolina freshman Nathan Kraisser’s 8-5 upset of redshirt senior Matt Snyder.
Virginia quickly rallied and rattled off wins in six of the remaining seven weight classes. Redshirt freshman Zach Nye and redshirt senior Jedd Moore contributed bonus points to the cause by way of a tech fall and major decision, respectively.
Attention quickly shifted to Sunday’s contest against the lowly Blue Devils (2-4, 0-2 ACC), who are enduring a painful inaugural season under coach Glen Lanham. Duke is still in search of not only its first conference win but also its first team points in conference play as the Blue Devils have been blanked by both Virginia and No. 9 Virginia Tech. For the Cavaliers, a wounded opponent presented an opportunity to lock down another win and play up to its No. 11 ranking.
“It was business as usual,” redshirt junior Jon Fausey said. “We expected the shutout and the one-sided victories.”
It would have been easy for Virginia to overlook Duke, but coach Steve Garland ensured his squad did not let up.
“The biggest thing I can tell my guys is do not take your foot off the gas,” Garland said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the last few weeks, and that typically sets you up for a letdown.”
It would not take long for everyone in Memorial Gymnasium to realize the Cavaliers had no plans of allowing a drop-off in their performance. The Blue Devils dug themselves an early hole by way of forfeiture at 149 pounds. Things did not improve for Duke as Moore and redshirt sophomore Nick Sulzer won by major decision and tech fall, respectively. Sulzer cruised to the 23-7 tech fall by amassing nine takedowns and three additional back points.
Throughout the match, the Virginia wrestlers rarely appeared in danger of losing. Several matches remained close in the waning moments of the third quarter, but the Cavaliers punched the gas pedal and secured match-sealing points.
Fausey won 5-0 in the 174-pound class, and redshirt sophomore Derek Papagianopoulos scored a crucial match-ending takedown in the 285-pound class..
Virginia provided the home fans an exhilarating finish. In the penultimate contest, freshman George DiCamillo rallied from a first-period takedown to tie the match 3-3 by the end of three periods. DiCamillo’s riding time was enough to give him an extra point and the match.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Nehls topped the excitement of DiCamillo’s match. With 18 seconds remaining in the third period, Nehls scored a takedown against sophomore Tanner Hough, an NCAA qualifier last season, to seal the win.
When DiCamillo and Nehls found themselves in tight matches, the Cavalier fans voiced their support boisterously, giving the matmen enough positive energy to eke out the win.
Sunday’s result came as no shock to the team. “The first thing I said to my guys after the match is we looked great, but everything counts and everything matters,” Garland said. “All of these matches matter.”
Nonetheless, the Cavaliers cannot afford to lose focus as a grueling two months of ACC and tournament play awaits them.
“It’s still a long season,” Fausey said. “The thing about keeping the ball moving is doing the things on a daily basis over the next two months that are going to improve our wrestling.”