The No. 18 Virginia wrestling team started out its big weekend on a high note Friday, defeating ACC foe Duke, 22-12. The win marked the first ACC victory for the Cavaliers (6-4, 1-2 ACC), and left the Blue Devils (4-6, 0-2 ACC) still winless in the conference.
“The first thing I said to the guys in the locker room was, ‘Boys, it feels good to win, huh?’” Coach Steve Garland said. “It’s amazing how much weight that takes off of you.”
Virginia secured the lead quickly, leading the match 10-0 after the first two bouts with the help of senior Nick Herrmann’s major decision in the 125 pound weight class, and junior George DiCamillo’s win in the 133 pound weight class by forfeit.
The underclassmen on the Virginia team had a good outing Friday evening. Sophomore Andrew Atkinson, who has been close to getting wins in his last two matches, finally got a dominating win in the 157 pound weight class over Duke junior Connor Bass.
Sophomore Tyler Askey also helped out the Cavaliers with a dominating 8-3 win in the 174 pound weight class, and redshirt freshman Will Schany was victorious at 184 pounds.
The Blue Devils threatened the lead in the 165 pound weight class, as Duke sophomore Jake Faust came back from behind to beat Virginia freshman Fox Baldwin. Virginia ultimately won the next three of four bouts and never trailed during the match.
“When you see something that you’ve worked on all week get executed, it’s exciting as a coach,” Garland said. “I think it was a big mental release for these guys.”
The Cavaliers had a quick turnaround, as they had to face No. 14 North Carolina Saturday. Virginia dropped a close dual match against the Tar Heels (10-3, 1-2 ACC), 27-20.
Saturday’s match seemed to fly by, taking just an hour to complete with bonus points being earned in nine of the 10 bouts.
The Cavaliers got off to a great start and led the dual 12-0 behind two dominant pins from Herrmann at 125 pounds and No. 6 DiCamillo in the 133 pound weight class.
The Tar Heels won six of the remaining eight bouts after the 133 pound weight class, but did not gain the lead until over halfway through the match during the 174 pound competition.
“When talking to the guys I quoted Charles Dickens in ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’” Garland said. “It was the best of times — meaning that we had some guys do some amazing stuff. … We were up 12-0, which is what we needed to beat this team. Then we began to give up bonus points, and it began to become out of reach.”
Virginia had a chance to start a comeback in the 197 pound weight class, but North Carolina sophomore Chip Ness, ranked No. 23 in the weight class, achieved a takedown with 15 seconds left in the bout to upset No. 10 Virginia senior Zach Nye.
However, Virginia senior Patrick Gillen ended the match on a high note in the 285 pound weight class, as he scored a major decision over North Carolina redshirt freshman Cory Daniel. Gillen is another wrestler who has been competing against top opponents in the ACC, and was finally able to get his first two conference dual wins of the season Friday and Saturday.
“It feels good to finally get one,” Gillen said. “It’s important to perform and not worry about winning — just to perform and hit your stuff, and it will all work out for the better. And it did.”
The Cavaliers will face No. 25 Chattanooga next weekend, as they will travel to Charlottesville Sunday, Feb. 14 for senior day.