It's been a season full of highs and lows for Vinny Waldhauser. The freshman from El Dorado Hills, Calif., started slowly before winning the starting job at 174 pounds in December. Since then he has picked up some great wins and suffered some tough defeats, but he has taken both in stride. He sat down recently to discuss his season as well as his bright future for the latest installment of On the Mat.
On the season and where he is heading into the tournament:
Waldhauser: Coming to college is a way different experience. You can't really prepare for it in high school. I think I had a great season-some ups and downs. I think it has just been a great learning experience for me and hopefully I can make a good run here at the end but I think it's been a great learning experience, a great first year and I'm so thankful to be on the team that I'm on.
On the transition from high school to college:
Waldhauser: Everyone's good. Dominating a match in college, it could be like 6-1. In high school you pin the guy. Everything is so much closer, everyone is so much better. Every match is a battle. I think that is the biggest change.
How do you evaluate the ACC field heading into the tournament?
Waldhauser: I'm not the favorite. I think I can beat anyone at the ACCs. I think I can beat anyone at nationals - it's just about believing in myself and how I preform.
Is it an unusual position to be an underdog and do you relish that role and use it as a chip on your shoulder?
Waldhauser: I love being the underdog. In high school, my sophomore year I was the underdog. My junior year, I was kind of the underdog. It gives me more drive and takes off a lot of pressure so I can just go out there and let it fly and let things happen.
What was practice like the last couple of weeks? Coach Garland said it was like a boot camp.
Waldhauser: It was hard. It was good to get broken down like that. Now I can build up and get stronger and get better this week and get my confidence back up. It was pretty tough.
Coach Garland was not pleased after your wins over ODU and George Mason. Was that good for the team heading into the postseason?
Waldhauser: Yes, it is good to have that because you have to have low points to build upon. Even though we didn't really lose it's still a low point in our season for us and we can only build upon that now. And it's great to have things like that because it shows us what we need to work on and what we can improve on.
Talk about your first year in college.
Waldhauser: It's been crazy. College is hard and it's a big transition. Wrestling is a lot harder. Social life is fun because you're always with your friends but it's easy to get distracted and it's hard adjusting and finding time for everything. It's a lot of time management-a lot of growing up to do. That is the biggest thing I've learned this year is just growing up and getting more mature and understanding what is more important in life.
What has it been like moving to the other side of the country?
Waldhauser: I'm used to living by myself so it's not that big of a deal. It is a little different atmosphere-the people here are really nice and the campus is so beautiful. The culture is a lot different than out west.
Why did you pick UVa?
Waldhauser: The education. Wrestling has always been my tool to get an education and UVa is the second best public school in the nation so I decided I wanted to come here and get an education out of wrestling.
Do you know what your major will be?
Waldhauser: I don't know what I want to major in yet so right now I'm just evaluating and narrowing it down for this next year and a half.
Tell us something about yourself that most people would not know.
Waldhauser: I still sleep with a teddy bear. I've had him since I was born. I am the youngest of five. Do you know what mutton bustin' is? At rodeos at intermission they have little kids ride sheep. I was two-time mutton bustin' champion. I wanted to be a bull rider from around 5-8. My dad wouldn't let me because he was a bull rider. He was a bull rider and a bareback rider. He grew up in Montana. One time when I was seven they let me ride a little bull calf. I got bucked off right away. My dad never let me do it after that.
Food: duck nuggets. I used to go duck hunting with my dad and we would shoot ducks and come home and make like chicken nuggets, but duck nuggets.
Spot on Grounds: The Lawn
Wrestling moment: Sophomore year, winning the match to make it to the medal rounds. I was completely underdog. No one thought I was going to place. But I ended up pinning the guy and to get in the medal rounds.
Class: I enjoy my Italian class. I was struggling at first but I really enjoy my teacher and I have a lot of fun in there.
Music: I like all genres but if I had to choose one I would say country.
Artist: If we're talking country I would say Chris LeDoux. I like old school. I like Garth Brooks too. I like a lot older country because my dad introduced me a lot to it.
Pro sports team: The Vikings for football and the Giants for baseball
Movie: Forest Gump or Pulp Fiction
TV show: How I Met Your Mother