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Wrestling makes big opening statement

Newcomers, returners all contribute for dominating wins at quad meet

Sometimes a team can do no wrong, and every cog turns at peak efficiency. Like a solar eclipse, these events are rare, but the results can be spectacular. For the No. 14 Virginia wrestling, Saturday was one of those times.

The Cavaliers swept aside their three foes by a combined score of 130-9, and recorded bonus points in 19 of its 28 wins. There were 11 pin falls, three technical falls, four major decisions and one forfeit.

The wrestlers’ herculean efforts even surprised coach Steve Garland.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be this good,” Garland said. “What I saw in the [practice] room didn’t look great, and I saw a lot of mistakes.”

Virginia opened action with a 46-3 win against Division II Anderson. The Cavaliers seized the initiative early and jumped out to an early 21-0 lead thanks in part to pins by redshirt freshman Will Mason at 125 pounds, freshman Emilio Martinez at 133 pounds and sophomore Chris Yankowich at 149 pounds.

Virginia would eventually cruise to the win, ended by a pin by redshirt sophomore Ethan Hayes at heavyweight.

Gardner-Webb was up next for the Cavaliers, who focused on the newcomers in their lineup for the second match. Sophomore Nick Hermann started with a decision win at 125 pounds. Redshirt sophomore Joseph Martinez also won by decision at 133 pounds. Redshirt junior Gus Sako, a 2012 national qualifier, pinned sophomore Tyler Ziegler in his first match coming out of a redshirt year.

Redshirt sophomore Blaise Butler got the pin at 157 pounds, and redshirt sophomore Zach Nye won via a technical fall at 197 pounds. The newcomers as a group made a strong impression on the team’s returners.

“All of these guys came out ready to wrestle,” redshirt junior Joe Spisak said. “It is a tough task to come into a program like ours, stepping up, and winning. Credit to those guys who really kicked butt today.”

The final match against West Virginia presented more of the same — a 41-6 dismantling. Sako and Butler added more pins to their already impressive showing. Martinez and Spisak both recorded technical falls, and redshirt junior Nick Sulzer added a victory.

The day ended on a somber note, as redshirt junior Derek Papagianopoulos injured his knee while defending a takedown attempt by West Virginia sophomore A.J. Vizcarrondo. Papagianopoulos could not continue the match and defaulted. There is no further information on the status of his knee as of yet.

Although Virginia’s near-perfect weekend was not against the stiffest of competition, Garland believes his team still sent a message to the wrestling community.

“If you watched our team today I don’t think you would want to wrestle us,” Garland said. “These guys showed you the Virginia style. We get on top and then we suffocate you, and I am going to praise the heck out of them on Monday.”

The Cavaliers now turn their attention to the Hokie Duals in Salem, Va. They will face VMI, No. 20 Wisconsin and Kent State.


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