Valenti Joins Henrich as All-Americans at NCAA Championships
PHILADELPHIA – Derek Valenti (Jr., Newton, N.J.) earned All-America honors at 149 pounds Friday evening during Session IV of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, held in front of a raucous, sellout crowd of 17,340 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Just hours after Chris Henrich (Sr., Lansdale, Pa.) clinched All-America honors, Valenti became the 13th All-American in program history with a 9-7 victory over Michigan’s Eric Grajales.
It marks the first time Virginia has boasted two All-Americans in a season since 2004 and the fourth time in program history.
Session V will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. ESPNU will have the live broadcast. Live results can be located at VirginiaSports.com. There is no internet video streaming for the Saturday morning session.
Virginia has racked up 24 team points through the first two days and holds 23rd place. Penn State had a great evening session to regain the team lead, 92.5-75, over Cornell.
“This was a really good step forward for our program with two All-Americans,” Virginia head coach Steve Garland said. “It’s a great step in the right direction. We had the most wrestlers that we’ve ever had in the All-American round, so every time you’re moving the program forward it is a positive. We had a lot of fight in us today, and I’m proud of our guys.”
Seeded fifth at 174 pounds, Henrich dropped a nip-and-tuck 4-3 decision to No. 1-seeded Jon Reader of Iowa State, who entered the match undefeated. Henrich clinched All-America honors for the third straight season earlier in the day, becoming the first Virginia wrestler to earn All-America laurels three times.
Henrich will face No. 2 Ed Ruth of Penn State tomorrow morning; the winner will wrestle for third place while the loser while compete for fifth; Ruth handed Henrich one of his three losses this season in December at the Southern Scuffle. It also will mark the end of to a storied career for Henrich. He holds the UVa all-time wins record with 136.
Valenti fell 3-1 to No. 5 Jamal Parks of Oklahoma State in his final match Friday. He will wrestle No. 3 seed Kevin LeValley of Bucknell for seventh place on Saturday morning; it marks the third of the top five seeds the Valenti will face – he lost a narrow decision to No. 2 Frank Molinaro of Penn State in the second round. Valenti is one of just seven unseeded wrestlers to earn All-America honors at the championships this year.
Also in Session IV, Virginia’s Matt Snyder (R-So., Lewistown, Pa.) nearly pulled his second big upset of the day before falling 6-5 to fifth-seeded Zach Sanders of Minnesota, who became a three-time All-American with the tight win.
Reader improved to 38-0 this season with the narrow win over Henrich (35-3). After a scoreless first period which featured three stalemates, Henrich started on top to begin the second period. Reader scored on a reversal after 14 seconds of riding time, but Henrich gained the escape 17 seconds later. Reader added his second takedown with 41 seconds left in the second to stretch his lead to 4-1. Henrich escaped 19 seconds later and again escaped to start the third, cutting margin to one, 4-3. Reader defended a couple of Henrich shots and did not let him make the deciding score as he finished out the win to advance to the finals.
“Henrich wrestled the No. 1 seed,” Garland said. “That guy’s a stud and Chris is a stud – guess what? It was a 4-3 match. I told Chris that ‘you’re a three-time All-American. The pressure’s off now. Just like you did last year, come out and give it all you’ve got for one more day.”
After notching two wins in the first session Friday, including an upset of No. 12 seed Desi Green of Buffalo, Valenti (27-14) sealed his All-America status against Grajales. It also served as a the pinnacle of a remarkable bounceback for Valenti, who started his season 12-11 before rattling off 15 wins in 18 bouts.
Valenti scored his first takedown 23 seconds into the first period and rode Grajales for 26 seconds before he was reversed. Valenti quickly escaped and added a second takedown at the edge of the mat with 1:27 left. He built his riding time to 1:06 before giving up an escape. In the second, Valenti started on bottom and reversed Grajales at 1:25. He pushed the riding time back over a minute before giving up an escape with 20 seconds remaining.
Grajales notched a takedown 15 seconds into the third to cut his deficit to 7-6, then cut Valenti loose. Valenti picked up a pair of stall warnings in the final minute, resulting in a penalty point. He also dealt with a multitude of blood stoppages, which slowed the match down even more. In the end, he held off an aggressive Grajales over the final minute and earned the riding time point to win 9-7.
“Talk about perseverance. Most kids who start off the season like Derek did would give up, they take an easy way out, they make an excuse, they quit, they transfer,” Garland said. “This kid decided ‘that’s it.’ He came back after the Southern Scuffle and said ‘I’m not losing again’ and went on a 15-2 run. He just kept elevating his game every time out. That’s endurance, it’s perseverance, it’s deciding that I’m going to get better – that’s mental toughness and it’s why that kid is an All-American. There are other kids who are more talented or have more moves than him, but he’s a winner.”
Valenti then took on Parks in another bout that went down to the final seconds. The two battled through a scoreless first period. Parks chose the down position in the second, escaping in eight seconds. Neither scored again until the third when Valenti, who started in the down position, escaped in six seconds to tie the match 1-1. There was little action until late in the period, when Parks shot in and scored the winning points on a takedown with six seconds remaining.
Snyder (26-11) finished with a 3-2 record in the championships – one win shy of All-America status – after a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to No. 5 seed Zach Sanders of Minnesota. Snyder fell one win shy of All-America honors. Earlier in the day he pulled a huge upset, topping No. 11 seed Frank Perrelli of Cornell in a 13-4 major decision.
Snyder was taken down 17 seconds into the match and escaped 25 seconds later. Snyder then seemed to be in good position for a takedown, but Sanders maneuvered his way out and took Snyder down again at 1:15. Snyder nabbed an escape point right before the final whistle to cut the deficit to 4-2. Snyder took top in the second and rode Sanders for all two minutes of the period. In the third Sanders chose neutral, and Snyder tied the match with a takedown with 1:45 left. He rode Sanders until 1:02 and nearly pushed the riding time over a minute, but Sanders was able to get the reversal to take a 6-4 lead. He allowed Snyder to escape with 15 seconds left, but Snyder could not get the necessary points in the final few seconds.
“Matt Snyder wrestled a three-time All-American to a one-point match which could have gone either way,” Garland said. “He had a cradle locked up and he slipped and that ended up costing him the match. That’s his best move. If you don’t go out with your best move, then you shouldn’t be wrestling. You have to try what works for you, he did it and I’m so proud of the fight in him.”
Virginia’s NCAA Championships Results
First Round – No. 1 Anthony Robles (Arizona State) tech fall Matt Snyder, 17-1 (4:23)
Wrestlebacks First Round – Snyder dec. Shane Young (WVU), 5-4
Wrestlebacks Second Round – Snyder major dec. No. 11 Frank Perrelli (Cornell), 13-4
Wrestlebacks Third Round – Snyder dec. Joe Langel (Rutgers), 13-8
Wrestlebacks Fourth Round – No. 5 Zach Sanders (Minnesota) dec. Snyder, 6-5
First Round – Levi Mele (Northwestern) vs. Joe Spisak, 5-1
Wrestlebacks First Round – Tyler Small (Kent State) dec. Spisak, 5-4
First Round – Nick Nelson dec. Casey Thome (Army), 5-4 (TB1)
Second Round – No. 2 Michael Thorn (Minnesota) dec. Nelson, 6-1
Wrestlebacks Second Round – Stephen Dutton (Lehigh) dec. Nelson, 11-8
First Round – Derek Valenti dec. Dan Osterman (Michigan State), 3-1 (SV)
Second Round – No. 2 Frank Molinaro (Penn State) dec. Valenti, 6-3
Wrestlebacks Second Round – Valenti dec. No. 12 Desi Green (Buffalo), 4-3
Wrestlebacks Third Round – Valenti dec. Donnie Corby (Central Michigan), 6-2
Wrestlebacks Fourth Round – Valenti dec. Eric Grajales (Michigan), 9-7
Consolation Quarters – No. 5 Jamal Parks (Oklahoma State) dec. Valenti, 3-1
Seventh-Place Match – Valenti vs. No. 3 Kevin LeValley
First Round – No. 5 Chris Henrich major dec. Eric Starks (Arizona State), 10-2
Second Round – Henrich dec. No. 12 Mike Benefiel (Oklahoma State), 6-5
Quarterfinals – Henrich dec. No. 4 Colby Covington (Oregon State), 7-5
Semifinals – No. 1 Jon Reader (Iowa State) dec. Henrich, 4-3
Consolation Semis – Henrich vs. No. 2 Ed Ruth (Penn State)
First Round – No. 9 Quentin Wright (Penn State) dec. Jon Fausey, 8-4
Wrestlebacks First Round – Fausey dec. Jason McCroskey (Chattanooga), 8-2
Wrestlebacks Second Round – Fausey major dec. Jake Meredith (Arizona State), 8-0
Wrestlebacks Third Round – No. 6 Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa) dec. Fausey, 7-3
First Round – Kevin Lester (Columbia) dec. Jack Danilkowicz, 5-4
Wrestlebacks First Round – Ben Apland (Michigan) dec. Danilkowicz, 4-2