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It’s been a long time coming for Nick Sulzer. After redshirting the 2010-11 season, Sulzer will take the mat for Virginia for the first time this Saturday as the Cavaliers wrestle Anderson and Campbell at Mem Gym. He will get the starting nod at 165 pounds for UVa and brings plenty of expectations with him. While competing in open tournaments last year, Sulzer posted a 24-5 record and won four tournament championships. His coaches have lofty expectations for him as well and feel he could be the first UVa freshman to reach the podium at the NCAA Championships. The Cleveland, Ohio, native can’t wait for the season to get going; he is the focus of the first On the Mat feature for the 2011-12 wrestling season.

Talk about the team’s preseason training.
Preseason went really well. We had the whole team together doing fun activities – not too much fun but a lot of running and a lot of lifting. We did stuff to get us away from the things we do in practice everyday as a way of keeping us fresh. By the time preseason ends, you really want to get into wrestling. Our season is just so long that preseason is actually really important.

What was your redshirt experience like last season?
It was a tough time, especially with redshirting. It was tough just sitting back and watching everyone else get at it but I’m excited to get going. Last year was a really great experience but it was a little bit rough at times too. A select few other individuals and I had to travel on our own. I’d never had to just sit back and watching the dual meets before. I spent all four years of high school with the team so not being able to get coached and do all of that was pretty tough, but once I got through it and the spring came along I got to do freestyle and they could finally coach me. It was so much better once that happened.

Talk about your freestyle experience and winning All-America honors.
It was a great experience just being able to wrestle with guys like Kyle Dake, people that are ranked top-20 in the country before the season even started. To build a whole new relationship with the coaches was amazing. The strides that I’ve made already from the summer to now are just tremendous.

Speaking of the coaches, what are your initial impressions of your new coach, Jordan Leen?
I’ve worked a lot with Coach Leen. I’d really say that I spread my time. I work with Coach Garland a lot. I work with Coach Clemsen a lot. Coach Leen gives a different look than what Manny gave last year. Losing [Coach] Manny [Rivera] after last season was tough. We were all really close to him but Coach Leen definitely is into my style in terms of how we both wrestle. It’s almost a match made in heaven.

What are you currently working on?
Top position is my biggest thing that I really need to improve on. I would say I’m pretty solid on my feet. Mat skills are my biggest thing that I’m lacking but as long as I continue to get better throughout the year, I should be pretty solid. I’m pleased with where I am right now but I’m never really satisfied. I need to get in there with guys who are in the top-20 and go from there. I really haven’t had a chance to see where I’m at.

Tell us about the St. Edward High School connection here at UVa, with both you and Joe Spisak as well as Shawn Harris.
It really all started with Shawn Harris and Danny Gonsor coming in. I was fortunate enough to meet Coach Garland when I was in eighth grade and he was at Cornell because he home-visited my brother and then when he went to Virginia, it was almost like I was destined to come here. We’re getting a lot of guys, which is awesome because St. Edward is a great program and it is really turning up so hopefully we just keep sending them here. That would be nice.

Why did you ultimately choose Virginia?
I already had a great foundation with Coach Garland before my visit, so when I came here with Danny Gonsor I met the team and I just fit right in. The academics were really a plus but the team, Coach Garland, Coach Clemsen really brought me here. I feel like I can accomplish my goals here both academically and athletically.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a lot more sentimental and emotional in certain ways. A lot of people see wrestlers and think that they are just meatheads but it’s a lot deeper than that. I watch romantic comedies. I’m in a music class. I’m in a poetry class. I enjoy it.

Chicken. Any chicken.
Spot on Grounds: The porch of Old Cabell. It’s awesome. It’s on the opposite end of the Rotunda on the Lawn and a ton of people walk by there so it’s cool just to sit out there with your friends.
Wrestling moment: Watching my brothers win states. Aaron is at Eastern Michigan and Keith graduated last year from Northwestern.
Class: Basic Musical Skills. We’re learning how to read music and eventually we are going to write our own scales and measures. I want to play the piano. I really want to play the piano. Music is a lot tougher than you’d think.
Music: Rap
Artist: The Game
Professional sports team: Cleveland Browns
Movie: Wedding Crashers
TV Show: Seinfeld

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