On the Mat with Chris Henrich
What a season it was for Chris Henrich. The Virginia junior racked up one of the best seasons in Virginia wrestling history – again – and finished the year with a 35-3 record. He became the first two-time All-American in school history with a third-place finish at in the 174-pound weight class at the NCAA Championships and also won his second straight ACC title in dominating fashion. He is the consummate team player, though, and was key to Virginia capturing its first ACC team championship since 1977 as well as a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, which ranked as the second-best NCAA finish in school history. Today he reviews all of that and also takes a look at what should be an exciting 2010-11 season.
Tell us about the experience at the NCAA Championships.
Henrich: It was definitely another great tournament. Looking back now, it was a long week we were out there. I feel fortunate.
As for the team’s finish, it’s amazing to look back and see what you all accomplished.
Henrich: It was definitely another year of ups and downs, but we were able to peak when it counted, and that’s the most important thing in the season. Just to be able to repeat that confidence going into next year will be huge, also. Every year, we’ve peaked at the right time.
Every year, the dual season may not go as well as you hope, but at ACCs the team comes out like gangbusters and wrestles its best in the postseason.
Henrich: I think it definitely has a lot to do with peaking at the right time and having guys healthy. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re hurt during the duel, but just getting some rest and getting back into shape for the final stretch of the season. I think last year more than this year, it was injuries that hampered our performance somewhat. This year we were able to have everyone healthy and throw them in line if we needed to. Our hard work paid off.
Tell us about the feeling you had when you realized you were ACC champions.
Henrich: It was awesome. It was incredible to be a part of that. Going into it, I was definitely expecting an ACC championship for myself, and the team battle is always going to be insane. Again, ACCs is like no other competition I’ve been to. It’s a completely different dynamic, and it’s a conference tournament. It means a lot to the guys on the team, the coaches, the alumni, the fans. We weren’t sure after my match (if UVa was going to win). It had been a back and forth battle the whole day. When we won, I can’t even paraphrase the feelings that I had at that point. It was just something special.
What was this next week like for you and the team, with all of the people coming in to congratulate the team?
Henrich: I thought it was awesome. I thought we’ve been a team and a program that’s fallen under the radar a little bit. I think we’ve underachieved, in some sense, to what we’ve wanted to accomplish at this point. An ACC Championship was just a great reminder of where we want to be and in what direction we’re headed. It was awesome, and I didn’t expect all of the fans and all of the support that we got after we won. It just made it that much better.
Henrich: There is a lot of buzz around this program right now – not only around UVa but nationally as well.
Answer: That’s one of the things that’s really exciting. I think it goes hand-in-hand with us doing well – it raises awareness about the sport, it makes people more confident and it helps us set our goals higher each year. We have an insatiable thirst for success right now, and that’s just going to feed into our team next year, too.
Switching back to NCAAs, talk about that loss (to Iowa’s Jay Borschel) and what it took for you to get back out there and keep going the next day.
Henrich: I was able to pinpoint exactly what I did wrong in the match. I was extremely eager for another opportunity to be in a match. I knew my next matches coming back were going to be tough, and I knew that it was going to come down to how much heart I had and my ability to recuperate after a bad loss like that.
You wrestled and lost to Nebraska’s Stephen Dwyer earlier this year at the NWCA All-Star Classic. What was the difference between that loss and the win in the third-place match at NCAAs?
Henrich: The same thing that happened against him the first time was what happened in the semifinals the previous day. I just reiterated over and over in my head again that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. I scored an early lead and I knew I was a better wrestler and that I wasn’t going to stop wrestling, I was going to keep building it and building it, and just work for the fall instead of waiting back for the action to come to me. That was the one thing I changed, and it made a huge difference in the match.
Talk about the team coming back for next year – it definitely looks like you will be loaded.
Henrich: We definitely will have an extremely exciting team next year. It’s going to be competitive to even be in the lineup. We’re going to have a lot more depth than we’ve had in previous years. We’re going to have legitimate title shots. We’re going to have a ton of All-American potential. I think, with that being said, people are going to have to stay on track and continue to do the right thing and try to have faith in everyone. I’m excited for our team next year and think there are a lot of people that are as well.
You will be the senior leader next year too.
Answer: I’m excited for the responsibility next year. I know everyone’s coming back, and our goals are going to increase, and it’s going to be harder to lead a team of guys with real agendas. It will be important to have a lot of team leadership. There will be other guys who will be able to do it as well.
Spot on Grounds: The Corner
Wrestling memory: my first match ever, when I was bawling my eyes out, getting killed and ended up pinning someone.
TV Show: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Website: Texts From Last Night
Sports teams: anyone from Philly
Celebrity: Denzel Washington