The Virginia wrestling team, ranked No. 23 in the preseason USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I Team Rankings, kicks off the 2008-09 campaign Sunday at the Michigan State Open. The event starts at 9 a.m. at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Mich.
Led by third-year head coach Steve Garland, Virginia will send 20 wrestlers to compete in the open tournament. In addition to the team ranking, Virginia has three of its wrestlers ranked in InterMat’s top 25. Rocco Caponi (Sr., Uniontown, Ohio) is ranked No. 9 at 184 pounds, Ross Gitomer (Jr., Flemington, N.J.) stands No. 16 at 125 pounds and Chris Henrich (So., Lansdale, Pa.) is No. 16 at 174 pounds. The trio all advanced to the NCAA Championships last season.
The three also are ranked in two other preseason publications. In the W.I.N. preseason rankings, Caponi is 13th at 184, Henrich is 14th at 174 and Gitomer is 19th at 125. In the d1collegewrestling.net rankings, Caponi is ninth, Henrich 16th and Gitomer 22nd, while Michael Chaires (So., Scotia, N.Y.) is ranked 25th at 165 pounds.
Eight UVa wrestlers got a jump start on the season last Saturday by competing unattached in the Eastern Michigan Open. Freshman Jedd Moore (Mount Vernon, Ohio) won his first collegiate tournament at 157 pounds, defeating teammate Danny Gonsor (So., Cleveland, Ohio) by injury default in the championship match. Gonsor went 4-0 in the tournament as he also earned his best college finish.
Michael Chaires (So., Scotia, N.Y.) took third place at 165 pounds, rebounding after he dropped his first match to win his final five bouts. Gitomer also bounced back from an early defeat to take fourth place at 125.
In the Freshman/Sophomore Division, Derek Valenti (Fr., Newton, N.J.) went 6-1, including three pins and a tech fall, in earning third place at 141. Ebe Nelson (Fr., Raytown, Mo.) racked up three wins to take fourth place at heavyweight, while Mike Salopek (Fr., North Huntingdon, Pa.) earned sixth place at 184.
Virginia opens its dual schedule next weekend at the ACC/Big Ten Clash in Chapel Hill, N.C. UVa battles No. 13 Wisconsin at noon, No. 9 Illinois at 2 p.m. and Michigan State at 4 p.m.