Feb. 18, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Injuries have made Steve Garland’s job more challenging this season, but they’re inevitable in a sport in which competitors are wrenched and pulled into awkward positions.
All things considered, UVa’s fourth-year wrestling coach is pleased with his team’s accomplishments. Heading into its final regular-season dual meet, Virginia is ranked No. 23 nationally.
“We’ve done very good things,” Garland said. “Maybe not reached all our goals, but we’ve done some awesome things.”
UVa (3-1, 16-5) hosts 10th-ranked Maryland (3-0, 18-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mem Gym. The longtime rivals will see each other again at the conference tournament, March 6 in Raleigh, N.C.
The Terrapins are two-time defending ACC champions. In 2008 and again in ’09, UVa finished second to Maryland by two points.
Win or lose Saturday, Garland believes his team will contend for the ACC title in Raleigh. Also in the hunt will be 14th-ranked Virginia Tech, which is 2-0 in dual meets against UVa this season.
“What’s funny is, last year we were right in the mix to win it, and sincerely looking at it, I actually believe we have a better shot to win it this year than we did last year,” Garland said. “I really do. I look at this list [of UVa’s starters], and I’m like, ‘That’s a great bunch of kids.'”
In the latest InterMat rankings, Chris Henrich is No. 3 at 174 pounds, Brent Jones is No. 18 at 197, and Mike Salopek is No. 20 at 184. Other Cavaliers who ranked been ranked this season include 125-pounder Ross Gitomer and 157-pounder Danny Gonsor.
The ACC doesn’t crown a dual-meet champion, but there’s still plenty at stake Saturday.
“The importance of this meet is very simple,” Garland said. “It’s just seeding” for the ACC tournament.
“It’s all about getting momentum for the conference tournament, which carries you into the NCAAs. So that’s really what we’re focused on.”
The Wahoos’ top wrestler is Henrich, a junior who advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2009. In the latest rankings, he’s behind only No. 1 Mack Lewnes of Cornell and No. 2 Jay Borschel of Iowa.
Henrich lost 6-1 to Lewnes in late December.
“Lewnes is going to be tough to beat, but it’s not like [Henrich] got controlled,” Garland said.
The NCAA championships are March 19-21 in Omaha, Neb.
“We’ve only had two national finalists in the history of the program. I’m one of them,” said Garland, who wrestled at 125 pounds for the Cavaliers. “If we can get Henrich even to the finals, I’ll be jumping back flips across the arena.”