Nine Virginia wrestlers competed in the NCAA Championships Thursday (March 21).
Former Cavalier All-American Steve Garland is serving in his seventh season as head wrestling coach at Virginia. A master motivator, recruiter and coach, Garland has worked diligently to push the Cavaliers among the nation's elite.
The results of Garland's perseverance are evident. In 2010 Garland was named the ACC Coach of the Year as Virginia won the program's first ACC Championship since 1977 before earning a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Championship, UVa's second-best finish at the national championships.
In Garland's first six seasons at Virginia, the Cavaliers have earned four All-America honors and 11 ACC individual titles while qualifying 33 to the NCAA Championships and now recording three-consecutive Top-30 team finishes at NCAAs.
Chris Henrich became Virginia's first three-time All-American in 2011 when he took sixth place at 174 pounds. Henrich was part of UVa's strong 2007 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 5 nationally by W.I.N. Magazine and No. 8 by InterMat. Garland has brought in seven straight Top-25 recruiting classes, including the 2009 class, which was ranked as high as No. 6 nationally.
Virginia had another standout year in 2011-12 as three Cavaliers won ACC championships, while the team went 11-1 in dual matches. In recording a 91.7 winning percentage, the Cavaliers set a program record. Matt Snyder (125 pounds), Nick Nelson (141) and Jon Fausey (184) all won ACC titles, while Snyder also was honored as an Academic All-American, which continued the trend of academic success in the UVa program. A league-high seven Cavaliers were named to the All-ACC Wrestling Academic Team.
Virginia recorded a strong 2010-11 season as the Cavaliers posted their second straight Top 25 finish at the NCAA Championships after taking 23th place. UVa produced a pair of All-Americans, as Derek Valenti (149) and Chris Henrich (174) each reached the podium at NCAAs, while seven Cavaliers qualified for the national championships.
As a team, UVa won a school-record 19 dual meets during the 2010-11 season, including a victory over then-No. 14 Kent State, which marked the highest ranked opponent that Virginia has ever defeated.
The Cavaliers also had a record-setting season in 2009-10 as UVa won the ACC title and took 15th at the NCAA Championships. A school-record eight Cavaliers qualified for the NCAA event. At the ACC Championships, Henrich and freshman Mike Salopek won individual championships but the championship was a total team effort. All 10 competing Cavaliers reached the semifinal round and posted finishes of fourth place or better. Henrich finished 35-3, while Brent Jones earned the Gorrarian Trophy at the NCAA Championships. As a team, Virginia went 16-6 in dual meets and earned a program-best national ranking of No. 16 in January.
Virginia qualified seven wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in 2009, despite an injury-riddled season. Henrich was named an All-American at 174 pounds after taking seventh place at the national championship. He went 40-3 during a dominating season. For the second straight year, Virginia took second place at the ACC Championship, again falling just two points shy of the title. Henrich, Caponi (184) and Brent Jones (197) all earned ACC titles, and Jones was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
In 2007-08, the Cavaliers went 18-5 in dual meets (3-2 ACC) in setting the then-school record for dual-meet wins. Chris Henrich was named ACC Freshman of the Year and joined Michael Chaires on the Amateur Wrestling News All-Rookie Team. In January 2008, Virginia earned its first-ever national ranking in the W.I.N. rankings at No. 25.
With a young lineup including four freshmen and three sophomores, UVa made major waves at the ACC Championships in taking runner-up honors to Maryland, falling short of the title by just two points. UVa wrestlers finished in the top three in nine of 10 weight classes, with Ross Gitomer (125) and Rocco Caponi (184) earning championships. Both were named All-ACC, as were Henrich and freshman Nick Nelson. Gitomer, Caponi and Henrich all advanced to the NCAA Championships.
Garland's Cavaliers notched an 8-10 overall mark in his opening campaign in 2006-07. Under Garland's tutelage, Caponi captured the ACC title at 184 pounds, while Eric Albright was the league runner-up at 133. Both earned a berth in the NCAA Championships, where Albright won three matches. The duo also earned All-ACC honors, as did freshman Kellon Balum.
Garland was appointed to his post on April 20, 2006, after serving the previous six seasons as an assistant coach at Cornell, where he helped the Big Red to four-consecutive top-11 finishes at the NCAA Championships. He spent his final four seasons at Cornell as the top assistant under 2005 NCAA Coach of the Year Rob Koll. Garland was named the 2005-06 NCWA Assistant Coach of the Year after helping the Big Red to a top-five finish at the NCAA Championships.
During his six seasons at Cornell, Garland helped the Big Red wrestling program move into the national spotlight. He coached 17 All-Americans, four NCAA finalists and 46 NCAA qualifiers.
The Cornell wrestling team finished in the top five at the NCAA Championships two years in a row (2005-06) and the top 11 at the NCAA Tournament for four straight seasons. The Big Red won the Ivy League title in five of Garland's six seasons. He worked closely with and was integral in the development of four-time All-American (2001-05) and two-time NCAA Champion Travis Lee and true freshman NCAA finalist Troy Nickerson (2006).
As the recruiting coordinator his last four years, Garland helped bring in two top-five recruiting classes, which included three high school national champions, four junior national champions and numerous state champions. His 2005-06 class was ranked second nationally and included the No. 1 recruits at their weight classes in Nickerson (125 pounds) and Adam Frey (130 pounds).
Garland, a 2000 Virginia graduate, was a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference finalist and winner of the ACC championship at 125 pounds in 1997. He qualified for the NCAA championships in each of his three years of competition. At the 2000 NCAA Championships, Garland earned All-America honors, falling in the national title match after he upset the top seed, Jody Strittmatter of Iowa, 9-7 in overtime, in the semifinals. Garland currently is tied for 10th all-time in career wins at UVa (91).
In 2000, Garland was named the ACC Wrestler of the Year. In his career, he compiled 91 wins, including a 30-5 mark during his senior season, when he competed in the NWCA All-Star meet. He also was a member of the 50th Anniversary Atlantic Coast Conference Team.
Garland is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Wrestling Coaches Association and has served on the NCAA Division I Wrestling Rules Committee.
Garland (35) and his wife, English, are the proud parents of two daughters, Sarah and Grace.