Virginia wrestling will host No. 22 North Carolina at Memorial Gymnasium Friday at 7 p.m. to continue ACC play.
The Cavaliers (3-3, 0-1 ACC) look to rebound after a tough 25-10 loss to No. 18 Pittsburgh. Alternatively, the Tar Heels (6-4, 1-0 ACC) are coming off a 37-6 win against Little Rock and a 29-6 win in their ACC opener against Duke. A win for Virginia against a ranked North Carolina team would help their hopes of winning an ACC championship.
Cavaliers to Watch
No. 28 graduate student Jarod Verkleeren
Verkleeren has been excellent as of late picking up a huge win against Pittsburgh to improve his record to 16-4 on the season. The 149-pound wrestler who was ranked the No. 19 seed at NCAA Championships in 2020, looks to improve to 2-0 in ACC play this season.
No. 22 graduate student Micheal Battista
After a win against No. 31 Pittsburgh senior Gregg Harvey, Battista has now won 11 consecutive matches for an 12-1 record. The 184-pound wrestler placed fourth at the ACC Championship during the 2019-2020 season and will look to improve on that in his final season.
No. 11 graduate student Jay Aiello
The 197-pound wrestler is 7-1 on the season and has had a huge impact on the success of the team. Aiello was the runner-up at last year's ACC Championships and will look to improve 8-1 on the season.
No. 26 graduate student Quinn Miller
The 285-pound ACC third-place finisher last season has served as a backbone to the team this season. Miller achieved a second-place finish at the Lehman Open and will look to continue his dominance against the Tar Heels.
Tar Heels to Watch
No. 13 freshman Spencer Moore
The 125-pound wrestler was a two-time high school state champion in Kentucky and has continued that momentum into his collegiate career. In his ACC opener, Moore picked up a 10-1 victory against Duke and then an 11-2 victory against Little Rock.
No. 7 graduate student Kizhan Clarke
Clarke, who wrestles at 141 pounds, had a 5-2 win against Duke. Last year, after being unable to compete at EIWA Championships representing American University, Clarke managed to advance to the semifinals of the Last Chance US Olympic Qualifiers in April 2021.
No. 6 senior Austin O’Connor
O’Connor was an All-American during the 2020-2021 season, finishing the regular season 13-0. Additionally, the 157-pound wrestler was an NCAA gold medalist and ACC champion last year.
133-pound weight class: No. 23 graduate student Brian Courtney vs junior Joe Heilmann
Heilmann recorded a 2:12 pin against Duke and Courtney picked up a 5-0 win at the Virginia Duals against Lock Haven. Last year, Heilmann defeated No. 10 Louie Haynes from Virginia with a score of 2-0 and should not be overlooked despite being unranked.
184-pound weight class: No. 21 freshman Gavin Kane vs No. 22 Micheal Battista
Battista who has won 11 straight matches will now have to face some of his toughest competition all season. Kane picked up two wins over the weekend with one of those wins coming by pin against Little Rock. Kane is 9-2 this season and is 1-0 in ACC competition. The match will have an impact on future seeding at ACC championships.
Although North Carolina has been extremely successful so far this season, Virginia is capable of keeping it close on Friday night. Coach Steve Garland preached after the Pittsburgh dual that his guys were “attacking the entire match.” If the Cavaliers can wrestle fearlessly and aggressively they can certainly come up with the upset and move to 1-1 in ACC play.