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March 20, 2011
PHILADELPHIA - Five Atlantic Coast Conference wrestlers - three from league champion Maryland and two from Virginia - earned All-America honors during the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which concluded Saturday evening at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Maryland trio of Josh Asper (165 pounds), Mike Letts (174) and Spencer Myers (heavyweight) secured their honors by placing among the top eight finishers in their respective weight classes, as did the Virginia duo of Chris Henrich (174) and Derek Valenti (149).
Asper, Myers and Henrich all placed sixth in their respective weight classes, while Letts achieved seventh-place standing at 174 and Valenti finished eighth at 149.
Penn State captured the team championship. Maryland led all ACC schools with 35.5 points, good for a 18th-place finish. It was the third straight top-20 finish for the Terps, who placed 20th in 2010 and 10th in 2009.
Virginia tied for 23rd with 24 points, while Virginia Tech scored 16 points to place 33rd. North Carolina (7 points, tied for 43rd), Duke (5 points, tied for 48th) and NC State (3 points, tied for 56th) rounded out the placement for ACC teams.
Henrich became the first Virginia wrestler to claim All-America honors three times. The senior from Landsdale, Pa., placed third last season and posted a seventh-place finish in 2009.
It marks the fourth time Maryland has produced three All-America wrestlers in one season and the second time in three years (197-pounder Hudson Taylor, 141-pounder Alex Krom and 133-pounder Steven Bell were all top-eight finishers in 2009).
After clinching All-America status on Friday, Asper dropped a tight 5-4 decision to Wyoming's Shane Onufer in the fifth-place match on Saturday. Letts, the Most Valuable Wrestler in the ACC Championships two weeks ago, scored a 7-2 decision over Central Michigan's sixth-seeded Ben Bennett to claim seventh place at 174.
Virginia's Valenti became the 13th All-American in the history of the Cavalier wrestling program. It marks the first time Virginia has boasted two All-Americans in a season since 2004 and the fourth time overall.
Henrich and Valenti each suffered narrow defeats Saturday. Seeded fifth at 174 pounds, Henrich dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 4 seed Colby Covington of Oregon State in the fifth-place bout; earlier in the day he fell 7-2 to No. 2 seed Ed Ruth of Penn State. Valenti rallied before losing a 5-4 decision to No. 3 seed Kevin LeValley of Bucknell in the seventh-place match.
Henrich finishes his career as the most decorated wrestler in Virginia history. He ends the 2011 season with a 35-5 record and concludes his career with a 136-21 record. The all-time wins leader at Virginia, Henrich is the program's only three-time All-American. The last seven losses of his career all came to All-Americans; his three losses at NCAAs were to the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds.
Valenti (27-15) made a remarkable turnaround in becoming an American. He started his season 12-11 before rattling off 15 wins in his last 19 matches to finish 27-15. Valenti was one of just seven unseeded wrestlers to earn All-America honors at the championships this year. He suffered three losses at NCAAs - to the Nos. 2, 3 and 5 seeds, with all coming by three points or fewer.
While Valenti staged a season-long comeback of sorts, Maryland's Myers posted perhaps the most impressive turnaround during the three-day Championship itself. The heavyweight Myers lost a 9-7 overtime match to Indiana's Ricky Alcala in the first round on Thursday morning. The freshman from Selinsgrove, Pa., came back to win five matches before falling to Missouri's Dom Bradley in the wrestleback semifinals. Myers (30-11) wrestled seven matches in three days and took home a sixth-place medal after falling to Alcala again in the fifth-place match
The ACC has seen 16 wrestlers earn All-America status over the past three years. Twenty-six wrestlers from the conference qualified for the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, marking the third straight year the conference has seen at least 25 student-athletes qualify for the NCAAs.)