The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Virginia wrestling caps off season with three wrestlers at NCAA Championships

The trio of Cavaliers did not place in any weight class, but still displayed good performances to close out the 2023-24 campaign

<p>Graduate student Justin McCoy saw his illustrious five-year career come to a close Friday at the NCAA Championships.</p>

Graduate student Justin McCoy saw his illustrious five-year career come to a close Friday at the NCAA Championships.

After a solid performance at the ACC Championships in which they placed fifth as a team and saw sophomore Nick Hamilton win Most Outstanding Wrestler, Virginia wrestling headed to Kansas City, Mo. this weekend for the NCAA Championships. Hamilton, alongside graduate student Justin McCoy and junior Marlon Yarbrough, competed for the Cavaliers (7-6, 1-4 ACC) in the championships as a result of their excellent performance in ACC play. 

Yarbrough was in the 133-lbs class bracket and was given the 23rd overall seed out of 32. His opening matchup would be tough, as he was the underdog to 10th seeded Pennsylvania State sophomore Aaron Nagao. However, this did not deter Yarbrough. He took control of the matchup from the start, and ended up with a win by a 13-5 major decision. This was one of the biggest upsets in the entire tournament and was a huge win for Virginia. 

With his journey not yet over, Yarbrough next had to face Little Rock freshman Nasir Bailey, who was the seventh seed in the bracket. While Yarbrough fought hard to get his second upset win of the day, Bailey was far more in control than Nagao had been and was able to defeat Yarbrough by a score of 11-7. It was clear that exhaustion was setting in for Yarbrough, as in his consolation match he was defeated easily by the 25th seed in his bracket — Army freshman Braden Basile — which ended his run at the tournament. 

After his impressive run at the ACC Tournament, Hamilton was given the 30th seed in the 165-lbs class bracket, making his path to another title win even harder than the previous week. Yet, like in the ACC Championships, Hamilton would prove pesky. Taking on Cornell junior Julian Ramirez, the third seed in his class, Hamilton fought incredibly hard. The battle went back and forth but in the end Hamilton lost 5-4. 

Still having a chance to place via the consolation bracket, Hamilton continued to rally. He defeated Lehigh graduate student Jake Logan, the 32nd seed, 4-1. Then, he took down 19th-seeded Army freshman Gunner Filipowicz with ease in a 13-2 rout that was deemed a major decision. The pieces were starting to come together for Hamilton to have another surprise run and possibly place, but his day would be cut short by Stanford redshirt freshman Hunter Garvin, who took Hamilton down by a score of 13-6. 

For both Yarbrough and Hamilton, the end of this season is not the end of their time as Cavaliers. Head Coach Steve Garland will look to continue to develop them so that in 2025, they can make even deeper runs in the National Championships. 

“Marlon Yarbrough and Nick Hamilton have more time, and I’m thankful for that,” Garland said. “It’s already been amazing to see how much better they’ve gotten this year. It’s only up from here for these guys.”

Unlike Yarbrough and Hamilton though, McCoy would not have another chance at national glory. This was his last run, his last time leading Virginia out onto the mat. While it did not end the way he probably wanted, McCoy still fought hard. As the 13th seed, McCoy would take on West Virginia redshirt freshman Brody Conley in his first bout of the day. While Conley did not go down easy, McCoy still held control for most of the match and won 8-4. But, the same could not be said for his second match. 

McCoy’s next opponent would be Michigan graduate student Shane Griffith, the fourth seed in his class. While McCoy did his best to keep Griffith from racking up a ton of points, he could not score any himself. In the end, Griffith took home a 5-1 victory, knocking McCoy to the consolation bracket. Once there, McCoy’s day and career would end at the hands of North Dakota State junior Gaven Sax in a rematch of a regular season duel that McCoy had won 4-3. The battle was tight yet again, but this time Sax got the upper hand in the latter half of the match and secured a 7-3 win. This match concluded McCoy’s illustrious career as a Cavalier, in which he consistently served as a leader of the team and one of Virginia’s best on the mat. 

“[McCoy] has had a great career here and has been an absolute pleasure to coach,” Garland said. “He will be a good … leader in the future. I believe that with all my heart.”

Even though the 2023-24 season is over, there is a lot to look forward to next season. The Cavaliers will return the majority of their contributors and have a real chance to be a threat in the ACC if the team continues to develop and make the proper next steps. But for now, Virginia wrestling will be able to take a break as they prepare for 2024-25.


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.