The No. 18 Virginia wrestling team has a busy weekend ahead of them, as they will compete against Duke Friday, and No. 14 North Carolina Saturday.
The Cavaliers (5-4, 0-2 ACC) will have less than 24 hours in between the matches, as they take on the Blue Devils (4-5, 0-2 ACC) at 7 p.m. Friday, and then turn around to face the Tar Heels (9-3, 0-2 ACC) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Luckily for Virginia, both Carolina teams are making the trek to Memorial Gym in Charlottesville.
Duke, North Carolina and Virginia will all be in the same boat as they will be looking to make their first wins in the conference. All of the teams have impressive out-of-conference records, but have yet to gain an ACC dual win.
Making up some ground is something that the Cavaliers have been focused on for weeks, as they have dropped their first two ACC competitions.
“We need a little more fight,” junior George DiCamillo said. “We need to bring the action rather than waiting for the action to come to us.”
Over the past couple of weeks, Virginia has only been able to compete twice due to snow cancellations. In the past two contests, the Cavaliers competed against two top-10 teams.
Virginia started out ACC competition by dropping their match Jan. 18 to No. 3 ranked and undefeated N.C. State, 35-7. Two weeks later, they lost to in-state rival Virginia Tech, ranked 10th in the nation, by a score of 31-7.
Virginia has two nationally ranked wrestlers on the roster who have been consistently picking up wins in DiCamillo, ranked No. 6 at 133 pounds, and senior Zach Nye, who is ranked No. 10 at 197 pounds. The two wrestlers were also the only two competitors to pick up victories for the Cavaliers against the Wolfpack and the Hokies.
However, Virginia has had other wrestlers who have had shining moments in both matches. Sophomore Andrew Atkinson came close to a win in the 157 pound weight class against a nationally ranked Virginia Tech opponent, and almost defeated his No. 6 ranked N.C. State opponent.
“That’s what we have tried to tell our guys… It’s not about the outcome, it’s about how you go out there and sell out as a competitor,” Coach Steve Garland said.
On the other hand, Duke has a pair of nationally ranked wrestlers who will challenge the Cavaliers. The Blue Devils will look to No. 5 Conner Hartmann in the 197 pound weight class, who is currently undefeated in dual matches (9-0) and 18-1 on the year. Duke will also rely on No. 10 Mitch Finesilver at 149 pounds to pick up some points.
Once the first bout begins Friday night, the Cavaliers have 18 hours until they get back in gear to take on nationally-ranked North Carolina at 1 p.m. the next day.
The Tar Heels have an impressive slate of six nationally ranked wrestlers who have led them to their No. 14 ranking.
A highly contested match will come in the 197 pound weight class, as No. 23 Chip Ness will take on Nye.
Saturday’s match against the Tar Heels will mark the third-ranked opponent that the Cavaliers will face in three weeks in the midst of their tough ACC schedule.
“There literally is no rest for us,” Garland said. “The hope and the prayer is that it helps us and doesn’t hurt us going through this weekend.”