Perennial national powers Penn State and Oklahoma State highlight a loaded 2008-09 Virginia wrestling schedule, announced Tuesday by UVa head coach Steve Garland. The Nittany Lions and Cowboys placed third and fifth, respectively at the 2008 NCAA Championships and are joined by Big Ten powers Illinois and Wisconsin and in-state foe Old Dominion on the 2008-09 non-conference slate. The rapidly-improving ACC schedule then looms in January and February.
“My staff and I really made a point to get the best competition possible,” Garland said. “Every team wants to wrestle the best in the country. If you look at our early schedule, we wrestle four of the top 20 teams in the country and all on the road. That is testament to our administration, which is willing to support us and send us all over country.”
“The most common questions I get from people outside the program are who do you wrestle’ and what is your schedule like.’” “We are wrestling some incredible teams this year. Penn State and Oklahoma State were among the top five teams in the country last year. Illinois and Wisconsin are perennially among the best programs in the country. Old Dominion has a great team coming back and Rutgers brought in a top-20 class this year. Our conference rivals will be even tougher this year, with Maryland and NC State both coming back after top 25 showings at NCAAs last year.”
Virginia opens the 2008 portion of its schedule with five straight road trips and will wrestle all but five of their 2008-09 matches on the road. After starting the year Nov. 8 at the Michigan State Open, the Cavaliers will battle Illinois and Wisconsin at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Nov. 15 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Fighting Illini and Badgers finished 14th and 17th, respectively, the 2008 NCAA Championships.
The following week, the Cavaliers get another stern test at the Sprawl and Brawl, taking on Penn State and AIC in Binghamton, N.Y. It gets no easier as the Cavaliers finish November in Albany, N.Y., at the Northeast Duals with the program’s first-ever match against 34-time national champion Oklahoma State, as well as Bucknell and Harvard. UVa then wraps up 2008 at one of the top national tournaments, the Southern Scuffle, in Greensboro, N.C., Dec. 29-30.
The new year will not provide a break, as UVa opens at the Virginia Duals Jan. 9-10 in Hampton, Va. The Cavaliers’ opponents will not be announced until just prior to the competition, but the field is loaded with strong programs such as Boise State, Edinboro, Illinois, Lehigh, Old Dominion and Penn.
UVa opens its home schedule Jan. 17 with a double dual against UNC Greensboro and Rutgers at Memorial Gymnasium. The Cavaliers wrestle Appalachian State the following day at 1 p.m.
Virginia starts ACC competition Jan. 23 at North Carolina and then visits Campbell the following afternoon for a 1 p.m. dual. UVa stays on the road the next weekend with two neutral-site matches Jan. 30 vs. George Mason in Hopewell, Va., and Jan. 31 vs. Virginia Tech in the annual Rumble on the River’ in Richmond, Va.
The Cavaliers then wrap up their road swing Feb. 5 with a dual match at defending CAA champion Old Dominion. Virginia returns home the next weekend for its final two home duals, battling NC State Feb. 14 and Duke Feb. 15.
UVa concludes the regular season Feb. 22 at defending ACC champion Maryland, which defeated the Cavaliers by a point in the regular-season finale last season and then by just two points for the ACC Championship two weeks later. The Terrapins finished 21st at the 2008 NCAA Championships.
The ACC Championships will be contested March 7 at Virginia Tech, while the NCAA Championships will be March 19-21 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Virginia finished 18-5 overall and 3-2 in duals last season and took 40th place at the NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers return starters at eight of 10 weight classes from last year and will welcome in another stellar freshman class.