2010-11 Wrestling Season Preview
Virginia returns eight former NCAA qualifiers, including 2010 redshirts Nick Nelson and Jedd Moore, for the 2010-11 season. After winning the program’s first ACC championship since 1977 and earning a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Championships (second best in program history), the Cavaliers return plenty of firepower as they look to defend their league crown.
The Cavaliers’ goals this year are simple: repeat as ACC champions and pick up even more hardware at NCAAs.
Virginia also brings in a stellar freshman class, which adds depth and puts plenty of pressure on the incumbents at each weight class.
The frontrunner for the starting spot 125 pounds is third year Matt Snyder, who went 27-16 in his first season as a Cavalier. To help the team, Snyder shifted from 125 to 133 for the second half of last season and, despite being undersized, nearly earned an NCAA bid.
He dropped a 2-1 decision in the championship match of the ACC Championships to two-time All-American Steve Bell of Maryland. Snyder is a very funky wrestler that consistently poses a matchup problem for his foes. Snyder, who transferred from Bloomsburg University last year, racked up a 27-16 record his first full year in Charlottesville. He is tough on top and likely will rank among the team leaders in pins this year.
Snyder will be challenged by second year Gabe Gomez, a former two-time state champion from Bloomfield, Colo., who redshirted last season. Gomez stayed in Charlottesville all summer to train, which should pay dividends this season.
Virginia returns only one wrestler at this weight class, sophomore Matt Cubillos, who started at 133 for the first half of the season last year. He took some lumps because of a very tough schedule but made some major strides over the summer. Much like the rest of the roster, Cubillos made the decision to stay at UVa this summer and train. He should be much improved this year.
Cubillos will be pushed by a pair of talented freshmen – Joe Spisak, a state champion and two-time state finalist in Pennsylvania, and Gus Sako, a two-time Ohio state champion.
Spisak is very good on top, while his biggest strength on his feet is his scrambling ability. He is physically gifted and recently benched press 260 pounds and will look to improve on his technical skills.
Sako, from national powerhouse St. Edward High School, also is very tough on top and has great technique but will have to develop quickly from the bottom position.
2009 NCAA qualifier Nick Nelson returns to the lineup after a redshirt year in 2010. Nelson was an ACC runner up as a freshman and reached the NCAA round of 12 in 2009, narrowly missing All-America honors after upsetting the No. 2 seed at NCAAs. One of the most vocal leaders in the Cavaliers’ wrestling room, Nelson is ranked among the top 20 nationally in the preseason and has All-America aspirations.
Freshman Tanner Hirstine will back up Nelson at 141. Hirstine was a 2010 Colorado state champion who shows great promise for the future.
The 149-pound class will be a interesting weight class for the Cavaliers this season. Derek Valenti moves up from 141 and looks to be the front runner for the spot but has plenty of talented teammates pushing him. Valenti earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships last year at 141. He is extremely talented from the top position and went 25-10 last season, including a 1-2 mark at NCAAs but will be looking for much better results this season.
Dave Ebbott started five matches last year, going 3-2 over that span. He put a run together last season where he pinned three opponents in a row (Princeton, Duke and NC State). Ebbott has a motor that never stops but needs to continue to improve his technique to stay a consistent starter this season.
Nicky Gordon redshirted last season and will be moving up to 149 this year. Garland said Gordon is as gifted a wrestler as the Cavaliers have in their room, packed with fast twitch muscles, speed and skill.
Sam MacGregor came in as a walk on but has become one of the favorite wrestlers on the team. He is a coaching staff favorite because he loves wrestling, loves being in the room and is a hard worker.
NCAA qualifier Shawn Harris will move up a weight class this season. Harris took second in the ACC last season and will be looking for even more this season. Harris went 20-14 last year; his biggest win came when he bumped up a weight class to 157 and beat then-No. 5 Thomas Scotton from North Carolina.
Danny Clarke also will be looking to make his way into the lineup. A former high school All American, Clarke is very good from the top position but will need to make an effort to open up more with his offense to beat the top guys. He is very talented, has been battle tested in the past and could be a force in the lineup in the near future.
Jedd Moore returns to the UVa lineup after sitting out last season with a foot injury. The former two-time Ohio state champion burst onto the scene as a freshman and won 30 matches while earning a bid to the NCAA Championships. His biggest win came against two-time All-American and eventual NCAA runner-up Dan Vallimont of Penn State. Moore, whose nickname is “machine,” is explosive, hard nosed and never stops pushing the action.
Freshman Conner Miller also will be looking to crack the starting lineup. Miller is a former state champion from Virginia (Fauquier HS). He has tremendous upside and the coaches expect him to improve a great deal this year while training with the Cavaliers.
Two-time All-American Chris Henrich will be looking to bring home the first NCAA title in Virginia history this season. In his junior season Henrich came very close to earning that title before settling for third place. Henrich went 35-3 last season and, with 101 career wins, needs just 16 more victories to become the winningest wrestler in Virginia history. His summer training included trips to Missouri and Colorado Springs to workout with some of the best wrestlers in the country.
The Cavaliers also have two extremely talented freshmen at this weight class as well. Billy Coggins is a state champ from Rocky Point, N.Y.. that will be a staple in the program for years to come. Garland said that on top of being very physically gifted, Coggins boasts some of the best technique he has seen in a wrestler his age and has picked up the college game quickly as well.
Nick Sulzer was one of the top ranked recruits nationally at any weight class last year. He led his St. Edward High School team to an Ohio state championship and was the 2010 Ohio state champ at 160 pounds, which helped him earn Most Outstanding Wrestler honors at the state championship. He has great physical tools and the coaching staff is very high on him. He also will be a key player in the Cavaliers’ lineup for several years to come.
Jon Fausey will come off his redshirt season to compete this year. Fausey was the No. 2-ranked 189-pounder coming out of high school and competed very well in open tournament competition last year. He earned All-America honors in the offseason after placing fourth at the University National Championships in Akron, Ohio, where he defeated highly touted Penn State wrestler Eddie Ruth along the way. He also trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs this summer.
Also competing at 184 this season will be sophomore Stephen Doty, a former state champion from Missouri. Very quiet and unassuming, Doty boasts toughness on the mat, both mentally and physically. He made some spot starts last season at 174 behind Chris Henrich but put on a lot of muscle over the summer and will be moving up a weight class.
Reigning ACC Champion and NCAA qualifier Mike Salopek will move up to 197 pounds this season. At 6-feet-3 Salopek is arguably the best pure athlete on the team, but he also is very mentally tough. He is affectionately referred to as “pipe bomb” in the Cavaliers’ wrestling room because when he mat returns an opponent it looks like an explosion. Salopek went 28-10 last year during his redshirt freshman season.
Fifth-year senior Jack Danilkowicz returns for his final season in Charlottesville at this weight class. Danilkowicz graduated last year from the McIntire School of Commerce and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in higher education (with an emphasis on leadership). Danilkowicz has taken more of an active role as a vocal leader within the program this year. Last season he defeated two very tough opponents to take third at the ACC tournament, which qualified him for the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA tournament he went 1-2 and gained invaluable experience which has pushed him to make the commitment to come back for his last year of eligibility.
Freshman Derek Papagianopoulos joins the heavyweight mix this season. He was a top 10 nationally ranked heavyweight coming out of Massachusetts and was a three-time Massachusetts state champ and a two-time Northeast champion as well. He also was a two time Junior National All-American. Papagianopoulos is a tough, powerful kid with plenty of room for growth.