After two tough matches in as many weeks against top 10 opponents No. 5 Virginia Tech and No. 8 NC State, Virginia wrestling has a chance to get back on its feet in ACC play.
After the aforementioned defeats, the Cavaliers (8-5, 0-2 ACC) currently are without an ACC win, and that must change going forward. It will not be easy, however, as Virginia is set to have a pair of dual matches this weekend against North Carolina (6-5, 1-2 ACC) and Duke (3-6, 0-2 ACC).
Going into this pair of matches, Virginia wants to come in with a blank slate and show their mettle.
“After losses, our approach doesn't change,” senior Will Mason said. “Every ACC duel is a competitive dual … we don’t say or do anything differently. We go into every dual meet with the same mentality and the focus.”
It’s currently in the dog days of the season, and everyone is feeling less than 100 percent due to both the intensity of the meets and the training required of a collegiate wrestler. Coach Steve Garland will not have any excuses, and expects his team to continue to operate at a high level.
“Everything is preparation for the national championship, so you can’t get better than the grind we’ve been going through,” Garland said. “If you feel bad, it’s good. We don’t want anyone feeling perfect in February.”
Looking forward to Virginia’s weekend opponents, North Carolina is coming off a huge win against No. 24 Pittsburgh and Duke is coming off a loss to Virginia Tech — a team that defeated the Cavaliers last week as well.
Garland knows every ACC match will be a grind, but he said that his team has been performing well and is well-positioned to leave the weekend with a pair of wins.
“Chapel Hill boasts a ton of great players and returning all-Americans,” Garland said. “Duke boasts some great guys as well, so it’ll definitely be a challenge. I’m telling my guys to go out there and have fun … we’ve been getting close in these big matches and the scoreboards have not been indicative of how close we’ve been getting.”
In terms of things the team needs to work on, Mason said there is room for improvement, and every time a wrestler steps on the mat is an opportunity.
“We are continuing to work on little positions that we had trouble with individually,” Mason said. “We want to use the full seven minutes we are on the mat to improve … we need to use those seven minutes to score as much as possible and keep getting better.”
While North Carolina and Duke are not necessarily the best teams on paper and should not be as big a challenge as Virginia Tech and NC State posed, it is important for the team not to overlook any ACC competition.
“They’re always good, competitive team with kids who are going to wrestle hard for seven minutes,” Mason said. “I know we can expect a hard-fought, tough weekend and an exciting one. While on paper, their teams may not be as tough as others, both are big dual meets for us that are going to be competitive.”
Virginia’s match against North Carolina will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Virginia’s match against Duke will start Sunday at 2 p.m. in Durham, N.C.