The No. 24 Virginia (8-3) wrestling team has gained momentum over the past few weeks. With wins against the Citadel, North Dakota State, Bucknell and — most recently — Lock Haven, the Cavaliers have achieved a national ranking and have gained a ton of confidence.
Some of their success may be attributed to the break the wrestlers had from classes, a time when they are able to really focus on their training and avoid the stress of being a student-athlete for a brief time.
“As a coach, it’s the best time of year,” head coach Steve Garland said. “The guys don’t have to worry about pressures of school, and they can set their clock from 9-3 everyday and they can get in a ton of lifting, and I think the training showed.”
Virginia’s recent run of form has certainly not occurred by accident, as the team has worked incredibly hard up and down the lineup to get into wrestling shape and to take more risks on the mat.
“[One] theme our staff tried to jam into their heads is to not get fixed on the outcome, but love the process,” Garland said. “I say guys that were pushing the pace, taking a lot of shots and taking chances. That resulted in a lot of freedom and a lot of great wrestling. The guys are also close as a group, which I think also helps. I think we are in a good a place as a team right now.”
The team is gaining momentum at the right time, but the Cavaliers still have a long way to go. Building team chemistry and taking risks are one thing, but the team needs to put everything together — from their technique to their hustle — as the season progresses.
The team is set for a serious challenge this Sunday in the Commonwealth Clash. No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1) is one of the top teams in the country and Virginia’s in-state rival. It’s going to be arguably the Cavaliers’ biggest challenge of the season, and Virginia will need to wrestle a nearly perfect match to pull off the upset.
“Tech is really good,” Garland said. “It’s one of the best teams they’ve put together. Up and down the lineup it’s going to be a really tough challenge for us. It might have a little extra emotion in it and will be a great experience for our guys.”
The fact that the match will take place in Blacksburg adds another dimension of difficulty for Virginia, as the Hokies are known for pulling in big crowds to support their team.
Virginia hopes to get the best out of their top wrestlers this season, freshman Jack Mueller, junior Andrew Atkinson and senior George DiCamillo, who have all been essential to Virginia’s success thus far. All three are ranked seventh in their respective weight classes, and their consistent victories have vaulted the Cavaliers to the nationally recognized position they are in now.
The showdown against Virginia Tech in the Commonwealth Clash will take place Sunday at 4 p.m. in Blacksburg.