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No. 15 Wrestling upsets No. 8 Hokies

Early wins give Virginia margin to weather late Virginia Tech comeback

John Paul Jones Arena had the atmosphere of a heavyweight prizefight Sunday when the No. 15 Virginia wrestling team took on No. 8 Virginia Tech. The two teams would not disappoint, and when the dust settled, the Cavaliers emerged with the 19-16 victory.

Sunday’s win remedies nearly six years of frustration — Virginia last defeated the Hokies in January of 2007. The Cavaliers (6-1 1-0 ACC) lost eight straight matches to Virginia Tech (7-1 0-1 ACC) in that time span.

“It’s been a long time coming,” coach Steve Garland said. “It feels good to get it over with, but this is not the end-all. Right now, it is time to celebrate, but we’ll be back at work tomorrow.”

Virginia and Virginia Tech exchanged decisions at 125 pounds and 133 pounds. No. 20 Hokie freshman Joey Dance got the better of sophomore Nick Hermann in a narrow 5-3 victory to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead, but sophomore Joseph Martinez responded with a 12-6 decision against freshman Dennis Gustafson to even the match.

Two of the nation’s best squared off at 141 pounds, but ultimately Virginia Tech’s No. 3 junior Devin Carter was simply too strong for No. 15 junior Joe Spisak to handle. Carter would win 16-6 for a major decision.

After the decision at 141 pounds, the Cavaliers found themselves in an early 3-7 deficit and at risk of letting the match slip away. The tide turned at 149 pounds, however when No. 14 junior Gus Sako upset All-American junior Zach Neibert — though Sako wouldn’t call it an upset.

“In my head I genuinely think that I am the No. 1 guy,” he said. “When I walk on the mat I don’t see him being ranked ahead of me. I see myself as the top dog, and he is the one trying to upset me.”

Virginia won the next three matches, starting with sophomore Blaise Butler pin at 157 pounds. His six points would give the Cavaliers a lead they would never relinquish and sent a bolt of electricity throughout the arena. Fourth-ranked junior Nick Sulzer won by major decision against No. 17 junior Chris Moon, earning a 20-8 victory.

“My strategy is to score as many points as I can,” Sulzer said. “I didn’t wrestle my best today, but I did what I took and completed my job.”

No. 17 junior Stephen Doty scored Virginia’s final points of the match in a 4-1 decision against sophomore Austin Gabel. Ninth-ranked senior Jon Fausey was unable to get the win at 184 pounds, as Hokie senior Nick Vetterlein scored the upset in a narrow 4-3 decision.

Though Virginia lost the final two matches, both by decision, ultimately the Hokies’ late comeback efforts were insufficient. Sophomore Zach Nye lost 5-3, meaning that Virginia Tech needed a pin at heavyweight to tie the match. In a gutsy performance, a banged-up sophomore Ethan Hayes fought hard and only lost 9-7 to hold the secure the win for Virginia.

The Cavaliers now travel to Albany, N.Y. for the Northeast Duals Nov. 30 and will face Clarion, Lehigh and Rutgers.


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