Coming off an incredible performance at the Mountaineer Invitational in which six wrestlers were individual champions, the Virginia wrestling team began head-to-head matches in Albany, N.Y. against Long Island and Buffalo Friday. The Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) built upon previous showings with convincing victories.
Virginia opened up the night against the Sharks (2-2, 2-1 EIWA) and did not hold back. With momentum on their side from their past performance, the Cavaliers unleashed a beating upon Long Island. Virginia took victories in all five of the lowest weight classes. One notable victory from this torrid start was junior Marlon Yarbrough II with a pin of Sharks junior Christopher Betancourt in the 133-lbs class in around six and a half minutes.
Right after Yarbrough’s performance, 21st ranked 141-lbs class sophomore Jack Gioffre was able to secure a huge victory over senior Devin Matthews through tech fall. Just two matches later, senior Dylan Cedeno was able to improve his season record to 5-2 with a major decision over senior Rhise Royster. All three victories gave Virginia extra points in the match and established a dominant tone for the Cavaliers.
While Long Island was able to take a decision win in the 165-lbs class, Virginia was not deterred. 9th ranked 174-lbs graduate student Justin McCoy secured a pin and senior Hudson Stewart followed it up with one of his own to squash any doubt that the Cavaliers would lose their lead. To close out their first dual, juniors Colden Dorfman and Ryan Catka won by major decisions in the 197-lbs and 285-lbs class, respectively. The match marked Catka’s debut for Virginia since he transferred from Navy. In the end, the Cavaliers won the dual handily by a score of 41-3.
Coming off of its early-night success, Virginia was looking to continue its dominance against the Bulls (4-4, 0-0 MAC). To say the Cavaliers kept it going would be an understatement. While Buffalo got off to a lead with a win in the 125-lbs class, Virginia would go on to win the next four matches and secured extra points in three of them. These four matches saw Yarbrough continue his excellent day with a victory by major decision over redshirt sophomore Cole French, and Jack Gioffre as well as his brother sophomore Michael Gioffre win by tech fall. In what appeared to be the Cavaliers’ only weak point of the day, Buffalo was able to secure a win in the 165-lbs class through a nice performance from senior Hunter Shaut. This would be the only class Virginia lost multiple matches in during the duals, and the last match they lost that day.
Determined to close out the dual with momentum, the Cavaliers surged back after the setback. Virginia won the last four matches of the dual to secure its second straight head-to-head victory of the season. Two of these victories also gained the Cavaliers extra points. Stewart had another big win with his second pin of the day coming against redshirt freshman Chase Kranitz. Additionally, in the last match of the day Catka secured a win by tech fall over redshirt junior Robbie Unruh.
Seeing Virginia start off head-to-head play so dominantly is a refreshing sign as they head into tougher matches in the future. The early victories are well-timed, allowing wrestlers to build confidence while the coaching staff identifies areas to build upon. In each outing so far, veterans Yarbrough and McCoy have impressed, though the 165 weight class was a notable weak spot in the dual. While the Cavaliers have yet to gain national respect, as they are still unranked, continued good performances down the road will give Virginia a chance to move its way up.
The Cavaliers will have a chance to extend their winning streak in head-to-head matches Dec. 2 when they travel to Fargo, N.D. for a match against North Dakota State