It was quite the upsetting Valentine’s Day for the No. 19 Virginia wrestling team. The Cavaliers (6-6, 1-3 ACC) never trailed Chattanooga (11-4, 5-1 SoCon) throughout the match, but the Mocs put together an impressive surge to pull out of the competition victorious.
The afternoon was nothing short of bittersweet, as Virginia held a senior day ceremony prior to the event, where they honored nine wrestlers: Dusty Floyd, Patrick Gillen, Ethan Hayes, Nick Herrmann, Joseph Martinez, Zach Nye, Dustin Roemer, James Suvak and Justin Van Hoose.
Virginia was one wrestler short in the competition with the absence of junior George DiCamillo, the team’s highest nationally ranked wrestler at No. 6 in the 133 pound weight class.
However, the Cavaliers started off strong, winning the first two bouts with the help of a major decision from Herrmann in the 125 pound weight class and another decision from senior Martinez in the 133 pound weight class. The two seniors gave Virginia a surge of confidence early in the match.
“DiCamillo is a guy that we feed off of for bonus points in duals,” Coach Steve Garland said. “Even without him in the lineup, I think they responded fantastically. We had a lot of guys who did what we hoped they would do.”
The Cavaliers jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Chattanooga would go on to win the next two straight bouts, as both junior Emilio Martinez and senior Chris Yankowich dropped hard-fought matches to the Mocs to bring the match to a 7-7 tie.
Virginia bounced back and was able to respond in a convincing fashion, as the Cavalier wrestlers would go on to win the next three bouts.
A pair of sophomores helped propel Virginia to regain the lead in the middle of the match.
Andrew Atkinson followed up his success in last weekend’s matches with a dominating match Sunday. The sophomore wrestled with high energy in the 157 pound weight class to ultimately record a technical fall for a score of 18-2 against freshman Andrew Webb. Atkinson’s win pushed the Cavaliers back into the lead at 12-7.
Virginia was on a roll as sophomore Tyler Askey defeated junior Sean Mappes in the 174 pound weight class to bring the Cavaliers an 18-7 lead going into the later parts of the match.
The crowd in Memorial Gymnasium went wild as redshirt freshman Garrett Peppelman was able to gain a hard-fought win against Chattanooga sophomore Justin Lampe in the 165 pound weight class. Peppelman knocked off Lampe with a 19-13 decision in a bout that went back and forth throughout.
With all of Virginia’s success, it looked like the match was in the bag for the Cavaliers going into the 184 pound weight class. However, that was not the case, as Virginia went onto drop the last three matches of the afternoon.
Redshirt freshman Will Schany dropped a close bout 5-2 to senior John Lampe in the 184 pound weight class, and the frustration for the Cavaliers only became greater.
Nye, ranked No. 11 nationally in the 197 pound weight class, fell to junior Scottie Boykin, which cut into Virginia’s lead, leaving them at 18-13 over Chattanooga.
The Mocs would get some help in gaining the edge over the Cavaliers when No. 11 ranked junior Jared Johnson was able to pin Gillen in the 285 pound weight class. The win put Chattanooga just one point above Virginia in what turned out to be a shocking loss of 19-18.
After fighting back in the ACC last weekend by gaining a win against Duke and fighting closely with No. 13 North Carolina, the loss was the last thing the Cavaliers wanted to see.
“Right now we’re just in a rut,” Garland said. “We can dig out, there is plenty of time and we have the most exciting time of the year coming up.”
Virginia has a chance to fight back before entering into postseason competition in just a couple of short weeks, as they will travel to Pittsburgh to face the No. 21 ranked Panthers.
“We need to loosen up and have some fun out there, and have that translate into wins,” Garland said.