Virginia Wrestling Wins First ACC Championship Since 1977
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Virginia wrestling team, behind ACC champions Chris Henrich and Mike Salopek, won the program’s first ACC Championship since 1977 on Saturday night in Raleigh, N.C. Virginia racked up 85 points, edging out Maryland (80.5) and Virginia Tech (78.5).
Virginia captured its fourth title overall and the program’s first since the George Edwards era. Under Edwards, UVa won ACC championships in 1974, 1975 and 1977. The Cavaliers narrowly missed winning the championship the past two years, finishing two points behind Maryland in each instance.
“It was just about a perfect day,” Virginia head coach Steve Garland said. “I’m just trying not to cry right now. It was 1977 the last time we won it and it has been a long time coming. There is so much work that goes into it. To see all of our guys hugging and crying, it means the world to me.
“You know you can do it and you put the work in, but at the end of the day, this tournament is crazy. The last two years we just missed the title by two points. We finally pulled it off. Sure, you come here and think you are going to win it, but until you do it, you just cannot imagine the emotion of pulling it off. Seeing the wrestlers hugging each other after Mike (Salopek) had won, that was a special moment.”
The championship was a total team effort. Virginia, ranked 22nd nationally, came in as underdogs to No. 10 Maryland and No. 14 Virginia Tech, but all 10 Cavalier wrestlers reached the semifinal round and placed among the top four in their respective weight classes. UVa was the only team to place in the top four in all 10 weight classes.
In addition to the team championship, a school-record eight Cavaliers qualified for the 2010 NCAA Championships. That breaks the previous record of seven, set in 1997, 1998 and 2009. Ross Gitomer (125), Derek Valenti (141), Shawn Harris (149), Dan Gonsor (157), Henrich (174), Salopek (184), Brent Jones (197) and Jack Danilkowicz (285) all punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships after earning automatic bids. In all UVa, earned one-third of the ACC’s 24 automatic qualifier slots.
Virginia held a narrow lead heading into the finals – by seven points over Maryland and by 11 over Virginia Tech. The Hokies won four of the first six individual championships to take a 78.5-77.5 lead over UVa heading into the final four weight classes. Behind Henrich and Salopek’s championships, the Cavaliers stemmed the tide and clinched the crown.
Henrich dominated at 174 pounds, winning by technical fall, 20-5, over Tommy Ferguson of North Carolina for his second-consecutive ACC title. The reigning All-American jumped out to a 7-2 lead after one period and needed just 5:08 before the match was stopped for the tech fall. Henrich also posted a pin in just 1:27 against Virginia Tech’s Taylor Knapp in the semis. With his two victories, Henrich has now won 15 straight bouts and boasts a 30-2 season record.
Salopek, a redshirt freshman, won a thrilling bout at 184 pounds with a takedown with 12 seconds left in the third period to upset top-seeded Tommy Spellman of Virginia Tech, 2-0. He also defeated Maryland’s Corey Peltier, 6-0, in the semifinals and improved to 28-8 this season. Virginia won the 184-pound weight class for the third straight year – Rocco Caponi captured the title the previous two seasons.
Including Henrich and Salopek, Virginia put five wrestlers in the finals. At 125 pounds, Gitomer dropped a 4-1 decision against Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech. Gitomer recorded a 19-7 major decision over UNC’s Brian Bokoski before downing No. 3 seed James Knox of Maryland to reach the finals. With his two wins Saturday, Gitomer moved into a ninth-place tie with Garland on the all-time Virginia wins ledger with 91 career victories.
Matt Snyder followed with a narrow 2-1 defeat against 11th-ranked Steve Bell of Maryland in the 133-pound class. Snyder, who since January has wrestled up a weight class from his normal 125 pounds, pinned Virginia Tech’s Brock LiVorio in the semis to advance to the finals.
At 149, Harris dropped an 8-4 decision to Brian Stephens of Virginia Tech in the championship match. Harris got to the finals after upsetting top-seeded Bobby Ward of NC State, 7-2, in the semifinals.
Valenti took third place at 141 pounds. After falling in sudden victory time to second-seeded Chris Diaz of Virginia Tech, Valenti bounced back with a vengeance, pinning Mike Bell of Duke and Scott Norris of NC State to earn third place. Valenti improved to 24-8 and now has a team-high 10 falls this season.
At 157, Gonsor took fourth place after dropping a 4-2 decision in sudden victory time to Thomas Scotton of North Carolina. After falling in the semis to top-seeded Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech, Gonsor knocked off Colton Palmer of NC State before losing in sudden victory time to Thomas Scotton of North Carolina in the third-place match.
Beau Fisher nabbed a fourth-place finish at 165 pounds. Fisher pulled a 3-1 upset against fourth-seeded Ray Ward of NC State in the opener, and after a loss to No. 1 seed Josh Asper of Maryland in the semifinals, he earned a 5-3 win over Ben Wales of Duke before falling into consolation final, 8-5 to UNC’s Kyle Kiss.
At 197 pounds Jones picked up a third-place finish. He recorded his school-record 43rd career pin in the opener, in 6:44 against NC State’s Christian McLean. After a 7-4 loss to UNC’s Dennis Drury, Jones earned wins over Chris Penny of Virginia Tech and John Barone of Duke to secure third place. With his two wins, Jones moved into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time Virginia wins ledger with 104.
Danilkowicz earned third place at heavyweight. After falling to top-seeded Konrad Dudziak of Duke in the opening round, Danilkowicz bounced back well with a 4-3 win over No. 2 seed Patrick Gilmore of Maryland and a 3-2 decision against NC State’s Eloheim Palma in the third-place bout.
Virginia’s eight NCAA qualifiers will head to Omaha, Neb., March 18-20 for the NCAA Championships at Quest Center Omaha.
Henrich will be making his third straight NCAA appearance; he won All-America honors last year. Gitomer and Jones each will be wrestling at NCAAs for the second time, while the remaining five will be making their first career appearance at the national championships.
2010 ACC Championships
1. Virginia – 85.0
2. Maryland – 80.5
3. Virginia Tech – 78.5
4. North Carolina – 44.5
5. Duke – 28.0
6. NC State – 15.5
1st Round: Ross Gitomer (Virginia) defeated Brian Bokoski (North Carolina) 19-7
Semifinals: Ross Gitomer (Virginia) defeated James Knox (Maryland) 5-3
Finals: Jarrod Garnett (Virginia Tech) defeated Ross Gitomer (Virginia) 3-2
Gitomer receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Matt Snyder (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Matt Snyder (Virginia) defeated Brock LiVorio (Virginia Tech) by pin (5:49)
Finals: Steve Bell (Maryland) defeated Matt Snyder (Virginia) 2-1
1st Round: Derek Valenti (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Chris Diaz (Va Tech) defeated Derek Valenti (Virginia) 3-1 (OT)
Consolation Semifinals: Derek Valenti (Virginia) vs. Mike Bell (Duke) by pin (5:57)
Consolation Finals (for 3rd place): Derek Valenti (Virginia) defeated Scott Norris (NC State) by pin (6:37)
Valenti receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Shawn Harris (Virginia) defeated Brent Jorge (Duke) 11-2
Semifinals: Shawn Harris (Virginia) defeated Bobby Ward (NC State) 7-2
Finals: Brian Stephens (Virginia Tech) defeated Shawn Harris (Virginia) 8-4
Harris receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Dan Gonsor (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Jesse Dong (Virginia Tech) defeated Dan Gonsor (Virginia) 12-1
Consolation Semifinals: Dan Gonsor (Virginia) vs. Colton Palmer (NC State) 8-5
Consolation Finals (for 3rd place): Thomas Scotton (North Carolina) defeated Dan Gonsor (Virginia) 4-2 (OT)
Gonsor receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Beau Fisher (Virginia) defeated Ray Ward (NC State) 3-1
Semifinals: Josh Asper (Maryland) defeated Beau Fisher (Virginia) 12-6
Consolation Semifinals: Beau Fisher (Virginia) vs. Ben Whales (Duke) 5-3 2OT
Consolation Finals (for 3rd place): Kyle Kiss (North Carolina) defeated Beau Fisher (Virginia) 8-5
1st Round: Chris Henrich (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Chris Henrich (Virginia) defeated Taylor Knapp (Va Tech) by pin (1:27)
Finals: Chris Henrich (Virginia) defeated Thomas Ferguson (North Carolina) 20-5
Henrich receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Mike Salopek (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Mike Salopek (Virginia) vs. Corey Peltier (Maryland)
Finals: Mike Salopek (Virginia) defeated Tommy Spellman (Virginia Tech) 2-0
Salopek receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Brent Jones (Virginia) defeated Christian McLean (NC State) by pin (6:44)
Semifinals: Brent Jones (Virginia) vs. Dennis Drury (North Carolina)
Consolation Semifinals: Brent Jones (Virginia) vs. Chris Penny (Virginia Tech)
Consolation Finals (for 3rd place): Brent Jones (Virginia) defeated John Barone (Duke) 12-9
Jones receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.
1st Round: Jack Danilkowicz (Virginia) bye
Semifinals: Jack Danilkowicz (Virginia) vs. Konrad Dudziak (Duke)
Consolation Semifinals: Jack Danilkowicz (Virginia) vs. Patrick Gilmore (Maryland)
Consolation Finals (for 3rd place): Jack Danilkowicz (Virginia) defeated Eloheim Palma (NC State) 3-2
Danilkowicz receives automatic berth to NCAA Championships based on finish.