The Virginia wrestling team will send a school-record seven competitors to the 2009 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which kick off Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The championships run through Saturday and begin at 11 a.m. Thursday and Friday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The ESPN family of networks will air 11 hours of wrestling action this weekend, beginning with the quarterfinals Friday morning. ESPNU and ESPN360.com will air the quarters at 11 a.m. Friday. The semifinals, with both matches appearing simultaneously on a split screen, will be broadcast live on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360.com at 7 p.m. Friday. ESPNU will televise the championship medal round at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with ESPN airing the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Brackets for the championships have been announced. Chris Henrich (So., Lansdale, Pa.) earned the No. 8 seed in the 174-pound class and will face Shane Smith of Millersville in the first round on Thursday morning. Henrich enters the championships with a 36-1 record and a 16-match winning streak.
At 197 pounds, Brent Jones (Jr., Burke, Va.) took the 12th seed and will wrestle Eric Chine of Kent State Thursday morning. Jones and Chine met up earlier this season, with Jones scoring a 10-4 decision. Jones has won nine of 10 entering the weekend.
At 133 pounds, Matt Bonson (Fr., Lewistown, Pa.) is slated to face Christian Smith of Liberty in the first round. Bonson earned a wild card bid to the championships after going 17-7 in the regular season.
At 141 pounds, Nick Nelson (So., Pittsburgh, Pa.) will wrestle Elijah Nacita of Cal State-Bakersfield in the first round. Kellon Balum (Jr., Herndon, Pa.) will match up with No. 6-seed Jake Patacsil of Purdue in the first round.
Jedd Moore (Fr., Mount Vernon, Ohio) will wrestle Jason Welch of Northwestern in the 157-pound bracket. At 184, Rocco Caponi (Sr., Uniontown, Ohio), making his fourth NCAA appearance to tie a school record, will face No. 8-seed David Craig of Lehigh on Thursday morning. Caponi and Craig last met in 2007, with Caponi earning a 2-1 decision.
Virginia’s wrestlers will be aiming to earn the school’s first All-America honors since 2004 when Scott Moore and Tim Foley both finished among the top eight. Nine UVa wrestlers have earned All-America honors all-time, including current head coach Steve Garland, who was national runner-up at 125 pounds in 2000.
Virginia has four wrestlers ranked this week in the national polls. Henrich is seventh in the InterMat poll and eighth according to W.I.N. at 174. Jones is 13th in the W.I.N. rankings and 17th in the InterMat poll at 197. At 184 pounds, Caponi is 19th in the W.I.N. rankings at 184, while Nelson is 20th in the InterMat poll at 141.
The Cavaliers are coming off a second-place finish at the ACC Championships. For the second-consecutive year, UVa finished a mere two points behind Maryland in the third-closest finish ever. Henrich, Caponi and Jones all won titles the Cavaliers’ most individual crowns since 2002.