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No. 13 Wrestling hosts rival Maryland

Team seeks to bounce back from first ACC loss

The No. 13 Virginia wrestling team returns home to battle a familiar foe in Maryland on Friday. The Cavaliers, who have not wrestled in Memorial Gym in nearly three months, aim to hand the Terrapins a decisive loss in a known arena.

Last week, Virginia (13-3, 2-1 ACC) fell to No. 7 Pittsburgh on the road. The 16-point defeat was Virginia’s worst loss of the season. The Cavaliers were able to keep most matches within their grasp, but were unable to capitalize late in the third period to take the lead.

Coach Steve Garland attributed these failings in crunch time to his wrestlers’ lack of will — a team flaw not previously apparent.

“[Pitt] had more fight than us, and that is tough to swallow,” Garland said. “We pride ourselves on winning, and winning in such a way that shows a lot of heart, but that didn’t show on Friday.”

Virginia will have to find its rhythm if it hopes to secure a win against Maryland (5-7, 1-2 ACC). Though they are no longer the top-tier national powerhouse of a few years ago, the Terrapins have faced a challenging schedule and their record may not adequately reflect their talent. Three Terps — senior Jimmy Sheptock, senior Christian Boley and senior Spencer Myers — are all nationally ranked in their respective weight classes, and the team is known overall for its scrap and ability to put up a strong fight.

“They’re dangerous, tough and well-coached,” Garland said. “We’re going to see kids who have good technique and put up a lot of fight. We’ve got to be ready to go, or we could have a bad result.”

Garland’s challenge did not fall on deaf ears. Redshirt junior and team captain Nick Sulzer held a wrestlers meeting Monday, looking to steer the team in the right direction and make sure everyone brought their full attention to the matchup.

“Sulzer is leading the troops into battle,” redshirt junior Joe Spisak said. “I feel we are back on track following our tough loss Friday. I am confident our team will bring its best effort against a very tough Maryland team.”

Starting out strong will be crucial to the Cavaliers, especially when facing the 184-pound Sheptock, the 197-pound Boley and heavyweight Myers. Maryland has recently appeared sluggish out of the gate, dropping the first six matches and amassing an 18-0 deficit against No. 16 Virginia Tech. If Virginia can press early, Maryland may crumble.

Aiding this objective will be redshirt junior Gus Sako. Sako has missed nearly a month of competition, but he is expected to return to his starting spot Friday at 149 pounds.

With the Terrapins’ impending flight to the Big Ten, the conclusion of Friday’s match closes the record book between two old ACC foes indefinitely. The two teams first squared off on Feb. 14, 1948, when the Cavaliers secured a 17-15 victory. Maryland and Virginia have waged battle 61 times since this first encounter, with the Terrapins holding a decisive 22-40 edge.

The results have stayed about the same under Garland’s watch. The Cavaliers are 2-5 against the Terrapins during his tenure, winning the two previous contests. Garland’s first win against the team on Jan. 29, 2012 proved memorable, with Virginia upsetting then-No. 13 Maryland 22-14 in front of a packed Mem Gym. At the time, the No. 13 Terps were the highest ranked opponent to fall to the Cavaliers.

“When I first got here, they whooped us for many years straight,” Garland said. “Our crowd was one of the rowdiest I have ever seen, and we were able to break a long losing streak. All of those things combine to make one special memory that I will never forget.”

“Maryland offers us a great challenge and chance to redeem ourselves with a win over a solid ACC opponent,” Spisak said. “At practice our guys have been hungrier than ever, and I am confident that we will be ready to bring the heat on Friday.”

Action is set to begin Friday at 7 p.m.


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