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Lenny Bernstein

Jan. 21, 1998

Ask the Cavs Head Wrestling Coach Lenny Bernstein

1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this year's team?
-Will, Forest, Va.

This year our strength is in the lower weights. We had a strong close last season. There are several wrestlers that will be very strong for us this season. Craig Fenstermaker (190-pound class) was a NCAA Qualifier and Martius Harding (177-pound class) was an ACC Champion. Both are expected to produce many wins. Harding is expected to wrestle at 190-pounds this season and just as competitive. Our lower weights have a lot of National Qualifiers and will be very strong.

2. What are your realistic goals for this season?
-John, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Realistic goals are to win the ACC Championship and to be in the top 25 in the NCAA. Thus far, we've had a tough time in the early season trying to make these goals reality. We've been plagued by injuries at crucial times and in crucial weight classes. At the past meet (Virginia Duals, January 9-12), we had four starters out and two were National Qualifiers.

3. With the recent deaths of collegiate wrestlers trying to lose weight quickly, what steps or procedures do you have in place to keep your wrestlers from such drastic and deadly actions?
-Mark Johnson, Charlottesvilley, Va.

This question is obviously coming up quite a bit. It's been a trouble for our sport for a number of years. Wrestling has been recognized by the NCAA since 1924 and we've never had a death and now we've had three in six weeks. I think it's a combination of a couple of things. First of all, let me speak on behalf of the fact that I think that there is something else going on outside of these guys losing a lot of weight. A creatin leak is quite possible. With creatin, you really need to be hydrated to remain healthy. I don't think we're doing anything different than what we've been doing in the past. The second thing I'll say to that is, what we've been doing in the past, is not healthy. I don't think they should be dropping dead but it's not healthy. I've talked about this issue for several years now at the national convention. I suggested that there should be some measwures in place to curve this behavior like weighing in an hour before the match rather than the night before. By doing this, it takes the motivation out of losing a lot of weight so fast because the guys know that they have to wrestle in an hour. What the NCAA has stepped in and implemented is a weigh-in two hours before matches. This year they are also giving the wrestlers seven extra pounds to weigh in at. For example, if a wrestler wrestles in the 118-pound class they can weigh in at 125-pounds and be fine.

4. Do you feel that the NCAA should step in with regards to the deaths of collegiate wrestlers or do you think that those were isolated occurrences?
-Andrew Howell, Arlington,Va.

The NCAA's Safe-Guards Committee, which deals with injuries and deaths, has implemented a temporary solution. I think what they've come up with is a good solution although, I don't think ivt will be in place next year. They will, however, have some type of modification to the new rule. In the long run, I think whatever they implement will be good for our sport. Right now, our sport is taking a pretty big hit from the media.

5. How much time is spent on recruiting?
-Howard Baucom, Abington,Va.

I spend a lot of time on recruiting. Some of it is related to day-to-day paperwork, returning phone calls, making phone calls to high school coaches. It also involves sending out letters to perspective athletes. Mostly, it 's the hidden stuff such as making phone calls in the late evenings to athletes to follow up with the them. Our season coincides with the high school season so a lot of time is put into finding time to visit the high school tournaments to see some of our top recruits and evaluate them effectively.

6. What are your impressions of wrestling in th'e ACC and in the Southeast? It seems that most of the wrestling powers are in the Big 10 and Big 12. Do you think that Virginia can reach a level where they can compete with these squads?
-Seth, Greensboro, N.C.

Virginia is a team that' s been on the move in the past few years. All of the programs in the ACC have stepped up making the conference more challenging. We challenged Carolina in the ACC finals last year and it came down to the 190-pound class and we lost to them. The wrestling in the Southeast isn't very strong but we do have some tough wrestlers. To compete with the larger programs we will have to recruit some of the best guys. Another part of our success is talking to guys who are looking at the Big 10 and Big 12 and letting them know that in a smaller program they can be " the big fish in the small pond." This is working and we've gotten some outstanding wrestlers. We're good and improving with each season.


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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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