Virginia wrestling falls in ACC opener

The Cavaliers drop their first dual of conference play at North Carolina

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Junior Jack Mueller started things off right for Virginia with a major decision.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Winners of four of its last five duals, the No. 25 Virginia wrestling team traveled to Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C., to open ACC competition Saturday. Despite strong performances from Virginia’s usual standouts, the Cavaliers (11-7, 0-1 ACC) fell 22-13 to No. 17 North Carolina (8-5, 1-0 ACC) in the two programs’ 78th meeting.

Junior Jack Mueller — the fifth-ranked wrestler nationally at 125 pounds — opened the dual with his 11th bonus-point victory of the season. However, the Tar Heels responded with three consecutive major decisions to take a 12-4 lead.

Virginia and North Carolina split the six remaining weight classes with sophomore Jake Keating, redshirt freshman Cam Coy and redshirt sophomore Jay Aiello all picking up wins for the Cavaliers. 

For the Tar Heels, redshirt sophomore Devin Kane and redshirt senior Chip Ness picked up back-to-back wins to extend the hosts’ lead. Redshirt senior heavyweight Cory Daniel capped off the night for North Carolina. 

“We won four bouts, but we could have done more,” Virginia Coach Steve Garland said. “We left a lot of points out there on the mat tonight. We were flat at a few weights, but did really well at some others. We were just inconsistent and you can’t be if you want to beat good teams.”

While Virginia may have suffered a disappointing result over the weekend, the NCAA Division I wrestling coaches’ panel rankings released Thursday clearly demonstrates the team’s progress.

Seven Virginia wrestlers — Mueller, redshirt sophomore Louie Hayes, redshirt junior Sam Krivus, Keating, Coy, redshirt senior Will Schany and Aiello — ensured the Cavaliers were well-respected in the rankings. 

Virginia will next return home for a pair of matches at Memorial Gymnasium. The Cavaliers will face No. 8 N.C. State Feb. 1 before a Feb. 9 dual match against Duke.

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