On the Mat with Steve Garland
This marks a big week for the Virginia wrestling program. A year after winning the school’s first ACC wrestling championship since 1977, the Cavaliers will play host to the 2011 ACC Wrestling Championship on Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena. Bids to the NCAA Championships will be on the line, and the pressure ratchets up a few more notches. UVa head coach Steve Garland talked this week about the season thus far as well as what lies ahead.
Talk about playing host to the ACC Championship this weekend.
Garland: This is a huge weekend for us. We couldn’t be happier to be hosting the event in John Paul Jones Arena. I did a facility walk-thru Monday morning and I was just blown away by the way it’s going to look aesthetically and functionally. It will be the most first-class wrestling event I’ve been a part of outside of the NCAA Championships.
Put into perspective the school-record 19 dual wins this season.
Garland: A lot of people outside of our team may have overlooked this accomplishment this year. It’s a huge deal. We’ve wrestled more dual meets than any other team in the United States of America. That means our guys are pretty darn tough. We’re wrestling three or four duals in a weekend when most schools are only wrestling one. I feel that shows the mental toughness and resolve of our guys. We had three top wrestlers each miss about 80 percent of the year and we still put up 19 wins. It’s a great accomplishment.
Your team has battled some major injuries to key guys in the lineup this year, but you seem to be turning the corner just at the right time of year.
Garland: For the first time all season we have our lineup in tact. Every guy that we had projected to start at the beginning of the year is going to wrestle together this week. That said, I couldn’t be more excited to have our full lineup. If we did that well without those guys, how will we do with them? I think it’s going to be pretty awesome to see what happens.
You are defending a championship this weekend. Is there pressure that goes along with that?
Garland: I think it can only help us. I think the fact that we won it last year hopefully is in all of these guys’ minds that are competing Saturday. We did it before. We can do it again.
What would you say to wrestling fans of central Virginia to get them out here to see some of the best wrestling in the country?
Garland: I would just tell them, this is the ACC championship and there are only six teams. Every single battle counts. Every point counts. You want to talk about excitement and anxiety and stress, but a good stress at the same time. If you’re looking for a good event to come to, come to this one.
What are your goals as a team?
Garland: Our goal at the beginning of the year as a team was to get all 10 guys in nationals, which is a very lofty goal, but last year we qualified eight out of 10. Our goal this year is to get all 10 guys in. We want to get our whole team off to the national tournament. We obviously want to win the ACC championship. But really, we also want to have individual ACC champions. We have a set of goals as a team, but we also have individual goals for our guys. Every one of them wants to be an ACC champ. We are just trying to get as many of those as possible.
What does it take to bring home an ACC championship title?
Garland: What helped us last year was a full team effort. We had all 10 guys, all 10 weight classes place in the top four. That is very hard to do in any tournament. That is what it is going to take again. It is going to take every single guy placing. It is going to take the guys who are number one to hold their slot and the rest of the guys to hold their slot and wrestle above what their seed is.