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Virginia wrestling splits against Kent State, Wisconsin in Virginia Duals

The Cavaliers continued to show resilience and grit as they closed out non-conference play

<p>Graduate student Justin McCoy picked up a victory to help the Cavaliers turn the tide against the Golden Flashes</p>

Graduate student Justin McCoy picked up a victory to help the Cavaliers turn the tide against the Golden Flashes

After a split result Jan. 6 at the Arms Duals, the Virginia wrestling team was back in action Saturday and Sunday in the Virginia Duals. During this event in Hampton, Va., the Cavaliers (5-2, 0-0 ACC) went head to head against Kent State and Wisconsin, coming away with yet another split result. 

Having beat the Golden Flashes (2-12, 0-2 MAC) 33-6 during last year’s Virginia Duals, Virginia was hoping to secure another victory. Fortunately for them, they were able to start off the dual hot. Sophomore Kyle Montaperto opened up the dual with a win by tech fall, and then freshman Gable Porter extended the lead to 8-0 with a win over Kent State sophomore Pablo Castro IV. 

However, the Golden Flashes would not give up easily. They were able to secure huge wins in each of the next two matches, one by tech fall and one by major decision, which put them on top 9-8. While this certainly shocked the Cavaliers, they did not let this run of two matches affect their goals for the dual. 

Sophomores Nick Sanko and Mason Stefanelli as well as grad student and Virginia ace Justin McCoy rattled off three straight wins to push the Cavaliers up 17-9, completely turning the tide of the dual. This lead was too much for Kent State to overcome. They did cut into the lead a little thanks to a win from freshman Kyle Snider, however, juniors Colden Dorfman and Ryan Catka clinched the win for Virginia on day one with two more victories. 

This win was huge for the morale of the Cavaliers, who had been consistently fighting injuries and other outside circumstances that have made each dual a battle.

“With everything we have been going through and the adversity that has hit our team of late, I’m really proud of our guys,” Coach Steve Garland said. “This trip was about finding a way and they found a way today. We had so many guys step up.”

Riding high off a day one victory, Virginia was hoping to come into conference play with back-to-back wins. But, they still had to face a tough Badgers (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten) team who had upset the 21st ranked Oklahoma the day prior. 

Right off the bat, Wisconsin showed that they were going to be a very hard team to beat. Fourth ranked 125-lbs wrestler and senior Eric Barnett beat Montaperto by major decision, and the Badgers’ redshirt freshman Nicolar Rivera extended the lead to seven with a win over Porter. 

Senior Evan Buchanan was able to get the Cavaliers on the board with a win, but Wisconsin responded right back with a pin that made the score 13-3. Sanko got his second victory of the day to close the gap a bit for Virginia, but it was largely for naught. The Badgers won each of the next three matches, with two of them being for bonus points. 

The score was now 27-6, and regardless of the result of the final two matches Wisconsin walked away with the win. Nonetheless, the Cavaliers fought valiantly. Graduate student Krystian Kinsey won his match, and Catka got his second victory of the day via major decision to cap off a 27-13 loss for Virginia. 

All in all, this loss was no major stain on the resume of the Cavaliers. The Badgers had five ranked wrestlers fight, while Virginia only had one. If anything, the victories at the end serve as a symbol of grit and determination that will be critical as the Cavaliers enter conference play. 

Virginia opens conference play Jan. 26 in Durham, N.C. when they take on Duke. The showdown will be broadcast on ACCNX and begins at 7 p.m. 

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