PITTSBURGH – Fifth-seeded Jack Mueller (Dallas, Texas) became the fourth Virginia wrestler in program history to advance to the finals at the NCAA Championships when he upset top-seeded Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern in the semifinals on Friday night (March 22) at PPG Paints Arena.
He joins Henry Jordan (1957, heavyweight), current Virginia head coach Steve Garland (2000, 125 pounds) and George DiCamillo (2017, 141 pounds) as an NCAA finalist.
Mueller will wrestle third-seeded Spencer Lee of Iowa for the NCAA Championship at 7 p.m. on Saturday (March 23). Lee is the defending NCAA Champion at 125 pounds. The NCAA Championship finals will be broadcast on ESPN. A live stream of the finals will also be available through the ESPN app and linked at VirginiaSports.com.
Mueller also locked up All-America honors for the second time in his career with his run to the finals. He is only the third Virginia wrestler in program history to earn multiple All-America honors, joining three-time All-Americans Chris Henrich (2009, 2010, 2011) and Nick Sulzer (2013, 2014, 2015) in achieving the distinction. Mueller was an All-American as a freshman in 2017 when he advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships at 125 pounds in his first appearance.
After the completion of Friday’s sessions, Virginia is in 23rd in the team standings with 20.5 points. Penn State leads the team race with 120.5 points, while Ohio State (88.5), Oklahoma State (73.5), Iowa (68.0) and Missouri (54.0) round out the top five.
“I’m so happy for Jack,” Garland said. “He was completely locked in tonight and dominant. That wrestler he just beat is one of the best in the nation in any weight class. He has been on a tear all year long. To see the way Jack won it, is amazing to me really. I’m blessed to be his coach and very thankful he chose Virginia. I hope his teammates can rally around him for the big finals tomorrow as he goes for an NCAA Championship.”
In the semifinal bout, Mueller wasted no time as he notched a takedown of Rivera seconds into the first period. He then proceeded to ride out the first period to build up almost three minutes of riding time. After starting in the neutral position in the second period, Mueller again took down Rivera and ended the second period with 4:28 of riding time and only one period to go. A third takedown practically put the match out of reach at 7-0 before Rivera would get a late reversal for his only points of the match. Mueller finished the contest with more than five minutes of riding time to earn the 8-2 decision.
Mueller advanced to Friday night’s semifinals with a gripping victory over fourth-seeded Ronnie Bresser of Oregon State in the morning’s quarterfinal round. In that match, the Cavalier junior battled through regulation with each wrestler having only an escape point to show on the scoreboard. In the second tiebreak period, Mueller picked up a second escape point before notching a takedown to grab the 4-1 decision over Bresser, handing the Oregon State wrestler only his second loss of the season.
Two other Virginia wrestlers competed in Friday morning’s consolation bracket with redshirt sophomore Jay Aiello (Chantilly, Va.) and redshirt senior Will Schany (Blair, Neb.) seeing action.
Aiello saw his first trip to the NCAA Championships come to an end on Friday morning, dropping a 9-7 decision in overtime to ninth-seeded Benjamin Honis of Cornell in the consolation bracket. The seventh-seeded wrestler at 197 pounds, Aiello and Honis battled to a 7-7 stalemate through seven minutes of regulation. In the sudden-victory period, Honis notched the takedown of Aiello to pick up the decision and end the Cavalier junior’s run at the NCAA Championships.
Schany had his run at the NCAA Championships and his wrestling career for the Cavaliers come to a close on Friday morning as well. Schany, who was the No. 29 seed at 184 pounds, dropped a 7-3 decision to 19th-seeded Cameron Caffey of Michigan State in the wrestlebacks.
No. 5 seed Jack Mueller
Rd 1:Mueller pinned No 28 seed Gage Curry (American), 1:27
Rd 2:Mueller major dec. No. 12 seed Michael McGee (Old Dominion), 13-3
Quarterfinals:Mueller dec. No. 4 seed Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State), 4-1 (TB-2)
Semifinals:Mueller dec. No. 1 seed Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), 8-2
Finals:Mueller vs. No. 3 seed Spencer Lee (Iowa) on Saturday night
No. 29 seed Will Schany
Rd 1:No. 4 seed Emery Parker (Illinois) dec. Schany, 3-2
Conso. Rd 1:Schany dec. No. 20 seed Will Sumner (Utah Valley) 8-5
Conso. Rd 2:No. 19 seed Cameron Caffey (Michigan State) dec. Schany, 7-3
No. 7 seed Jay Aiello
Rd 1:Aiello dec. No. 26 seed Anthony McLaughlin (Air Force), 7-2
Rd 2:No. 10 seed Tom Sleigh (VT) dec. Aiello, 9-8
Conso. Rd 2:No. 9 seed Benjamin Honis (Cornell) dec. Aiello, 9-7 (sv-1)
Saturday’s upcoming match listed in italics.