Virginia Captures FIrst ACC Wrestling Championship Since 1977

March 6, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - Third-seeded Virginia received clutch wins from All-America 174-pound junior Chris Henrich and 184-pound freshman Mike Salopek in the late weight classes to claim the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestling Championship on Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum.

The technical fall victory by Henrich and Salopek's hard-fought win by decision allowed the Cavaliers to gain the final edge in a tight, three-way scoring battle and claim their first ACC title since 1977 - the year current Virginia coach Steve Garland was born.

Virginia finished with 85 team points. Maryland, which saw 197-pound senior Hudson Taylor named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of this year's event, placed second at 80.5. Virginia Tech finished third with 78.5 points.

North Carolina (44.5 points), Duke (28) and host NC State (15.5) rounded out the scoring.

Virginia Tech placed a meet-high six wrestlers in the championship round, while Maryland and Virginia each had five. Three North Carolina wrestlers reached the finals, along with one from Duke.

Virginia Tech's 14th-ranked Jarrod Garnett opened the championship round on a positive note for the Hokies with a 4-1 decision over the 2008 champion, Virginia's Ross Gitomer. It was the second hard-fought match between the two wrestlers this season, as Garnett claimed a 2-1 win in their teams' dual meet on Jan. 23.

Maryland's Steve Bell, ranked 11th nationally at 133 pounds, received a tough test from Virginia's Matt Snyder but emerged on the winning end of a 2-1 decision. Bell captured his third ACC Championship and earned the conference's lone automatic NCAA bid in the 133-pound weight class.

The Terps made it two wins in a row as ninth-ranked Alex Krom edge Virginia Tech's Chris Diaz, 6-4, in a rematch of last year's 141-pound final. Krom won last year's meeting by an 8-5 score.

Brian Stephens, Virginia Tech's 149-pound freshman, got the Hokies back in the win column with an 8-4 decision over Virginia's Shawn Harris. And fifth-ranked Jesse Dong, wrestling next at 157, kept the momentum going for Virginia Tech with a 7-5 decision over Maryland's Kyle John.

The 165-pound weight class brought the first mild upset of the night as second-seeded Matt Epperly of Virginia Tech claimed an 8-3 decision over top-seeded and 14th-ranked Josh Asper of Maryland. It was the second ACC Championship for Epperly, who also won in 2008 en route to claiming that year's Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.

The team scoring was air-tight at that point, with Virginia Tech leading with 78.5 points, Virginia second at 77.5 and two-time defending champion Maryland third at 75.5.

Henrich claimed Virginia's first individual title of the evening by successfully defending his 174-pound championship. The third-ranked Henrich scored a technical fall decision over North Carolina's Thomas Ferguson, winning by 20-5 score. Henrich scored the final points on a takedown just seconds into the third period.

That pushed Virginia to the top of the point standings and set up an intense match between the Cavaliers' second-seeded Salopek and Virginia Tech's top-seeded Tommy Spellman at 184. The two nationally-ranked wrestlers remained in a scoreless deadlock until Salopek scored a dramatic takedown with 12 seconds remaining in the third period for a 2-0 victory that mathematically clinched the title for Virginia.

Even with the outcome decided, the final two matches showcased some of the conference's marquee wrestlers. Maryland's third-ranked Taylor, looking for a second title to go with the one he claimed in 2008, scored his second pinfall win of the day at 197 pounds, downing North Carolina's Dennis Drury at the 4:10 mark.

Duke's third-ranked Konrad Dudziak closed the 2010 Championship by successfully defending his heavyweight title. The 2009 NCAA runner-up scored a 4-0 win over North Carolina's Ziad Haddad.

Four of the five defending weight class champions from 2009 reached this year's final. The only exception came in the highly competitive 197-pound weight class, where Brent Jones, the Most Outstanding Wrestler of last year's event, dropped a 7-4 decision to North Carolina's Drury in the semifinals.

The champion and runner-up in each weight class received All-Atlantic Conference recognition. The 10 weight class champions, along with 14 other automatic qualifiers, punched tickets to the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 18-20 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

Additional at-large qualifiers, which will be selected by an NCAA committee, will be announced on Wednesday (March 11).

Team Standings

1. Virginia 85
2. Maryland 80.5
3. Virginia Tech 78.5
4. North Carolina 44.5
5. Duke 28
6. NC State 15.5

Most Outstanding Wrestler: Hudson Taylor, Maryland

2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Finals

125: Jarrod Garnett (VT) dec. Ross Gitomer (VA), 4-1
133: Steven Bell (MD) dec. Matt Snyder (VA), 2-1
141: Alex Krom (MD) dec. Chris Diaz (VT), 6-4
149: Brian Stephens (VT) dec. Shawn Harris (VA), 8-4
157: Jesse Dong (VT) dec. Kyle John (MD), 7-5
165: Matt Epperly (VT) dec. Josh Asper (MD), 8-3
174: Chris Henrich (VA) tech. fall Thomas Ferguson (NC), 20-5
184: Mike Salopek (VA) dec. Tommy Spellman (VT), 2-0
197: Hudson Taylor (MD) pinned Dennis Drury (NC), 4:10
285: Konrad Dudziak (DU) dec. Ziad Haddad (NC), 3-2

NCAA Automatic Qualifiers By Weight:

125 (3): Jarrod Garnett (VT), Ross Gitomer (VA), James Knox (MD)
133 (1): Steve Bell (MD)
141 (3): Alex Krom (MD), Chris Diaz (VT), Derek Valenti (VA)
149 (2): Shawn Harris (VA), Brian Stephens (VT)
157 (4): Jesse Dong (VT), Kyle John (MD), Dan Gonsor (VA), Thomas Scotton (NC)
165 (2): Josh Asper (MD), Matt Epperly (VT)
174 (1): Chris Henrich (VA)
184 (2): Tommy Spellman (VT), Mike Salopek (VA)
197 (3): Hudson Taylor (MD), Dennis Drury (NC), Brent Jones (VA)
285 (3): Konrad Dudziak (DU), Ziad Haddad (NC), Jack Danilkowicz (VA)