Nov. 10, 2006
Virginia wrestling has a new beginning in 2006-07 as former UVa All-American Steve Garland returns to his alma mater as the head coach. While Garland is the new head man, he returns a wealth of experience on the mat led by 2005 NCAA Qualifier Rocco Caponi, who is ranked as high as No. 12 nationally at 184 pounds and 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, Eric Albright, who boasts a No. 18 national ranking at 133 pounds.
"Actually, I have high expectations in my first year," Garland said. "We have some great talent in the room. We're going to be redshirting a few guys, which is something people might think might hurt us to some degree. Our success is going to be dependent upon how guys, who weren't expected to do great things on paper at the beginning of the year step up. How they step up, fill the gaps and improve during the course of the year are going to be important factors down the road."
Garland's team has set some big goals in his first year. The Cavaliers have their sights set on another ACC dual championship. UVa finished last season tied with Maryland for first place. The Cavaliers also have a team title at the 2007 ACC Championship in mind as well as trips to the NCAA Tournament for some of UVa's talented wrestlers.
"In order for us to win and achieve our goals of being ACC team champions and bringing as many guys to the NCAA Tournament as possible, we're going to have to come together as a team," Garland said. "That sounds cliché, but it's so true in this case. We really need to do everything as a team this year. Obviously, the individual work will take care of itself. As guys work harder individually, it tends to take care of the team aspect of it."
Taking care of the team aspect has come fairly easy thus far for the Cavaliers. Virginia returns four ACC Finalists in Drew DiPasquale at 149 pounds, Damian Johnson at 165 pounds, Mike Grogan at 174 pounds and Kyle Narkiewicz at 184 pounds. Narkiewicz will try his hand at 197 pounds in 2006-07. The experienced wrestlers on the team have helped the younger wrestlers come along under Garland's new system.
"My concern at the beginning of the year was how we would gel," Garland said. "How these guys who I didn't recruit would gel with me was something that I was keeping an eye on. The good news is that we've been gelling greatly. Practice has been going phenomenal. Guys have been really receptive to my system. They've enjoyed the different type of techniques that I show. There's a certain way I teach and I run practice. Our practices are short and intense and I think they enjoy this."
Garland's philosophy emphasizes mastering basic core concepts, such as reshots and handfighting, while at the same time working with each wrestler's individual style and strengths.
Virginia will have the opportunity to improve in Garland's system wrestling a tough schedule. The Cavaliers host a quad meet to open the season before taking to the road for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, where UVa will wrestle No. 10 Northwestern, a good Wisconsin team and a solid Purdue team. Virginia travels to big tournaments at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which is the toughest tournament in the country. UVa also competes in the Southern Scuffle, which is the top Division I tournament. Virginia has home dual meets with UNC Greensboro and ACC foes Duke and NC State. The Cavaliers wrap up the season when UVa hosts national power Iowa State.
Redshirt freshman Ross Gitomer headlines 125 pounds for the Cavaliers. Gitomer redshirted in 2005-06. "Ross is extremely tenacious. He loves the sport of wrestling. He loves training and he loves to compete," Garland said. Gitomer wrestled 11 matches in open tournaments last season and went 8-3. Coming out of high school, he was second at high school nationals and second at junior nationals, which is the biggest amateur wrestling tournament nationally. He placed fifth at the FILA Junior Nationals this past summer and earned all-american honors. Pushing Gitomer is sophomore Zach Anderson, who is an extremely hard worker. He's made strides technically and could see time as well.
2006 ACC Freshman of the Year, Eric Albright returns to anchor 133 pounds. Albright went 29-9 last season. He was selected as a team captain for 2006-07. "Eric is one of the leaders on our team," Garland said. "He's one of the hardest workers on the team and an extremely successful wrestler. He's good in all positions. He's great on top, great on his feet and he can do some great things on the bottom, so he's very hard to scout and wrestle."
Junior Anthony Burke will redshirt after making the move from 125 pounds. Burke started at 125 pounds last season and posted a 20-win season for the Cavaliers. Zach Anderson may see some time at 133 pounds as well.
Sophomore Peter Ferrara
returns at 141 pounds for the Cavaliers. Ferrara went 11-14 last season, but had four pins and one major decision. He had some big wins for the Cavaliers. Freshman Kellon Balum
was the No. 2 recruit out of high school at his weight class. "Kellon comes out extremely fast," Garland said. "He's strong and very talented, but he's young. He has a lot to learn as far as adjusting to college wrestling. He's still learning everyday and Peter's a veteran." Another returning veteran is Adam Kimbrell
. Kimbrell had six wins wrestling in open tournaments last season.
Returning ACC Finalist Drew DiPasquale won 18 matches last season for the Cavaliers. "We're looking for Drew to be a little more consistent," Garland said. "He had some great wins at the end of the year. He needs to get himself in position to wrestle that well in every match. He's learned a lot since I've been here. He's extremely strong and fast and powerful. We've tried to work on him staying under control. If he uses his strength and speed more, he's going to be exteremely successful this year."
Freshman Pat Riley also is looking for time at 149 pounds. He took fourth in the state of New Jersey. "Pat's our sleeper," Garland said. "He was not as highly a touted recruit as some of the other guys we brought in, but he works so hard and cares so much. He is very good on top. Also back is Danny Artusio at 149, who won four matches wrestling in open tournaments.
Sophomore Mile Sewell returns after winning 11 matches last season. He had a tough freshman campaign, but is poised for a breakout year. Sophomore Kyle Artusio is also back. Artusio posted five wins for the Cavaliers last season. Freshman Beau Fisher was picked up late in the recruiting process. He prepped in the state of Pennsylvania and has a lot of mat sense and a great knowledge of how to wrestle.
Senior veteran Damian Johnson advanced to the ACC Championships last season. Johnson went 20-11 and 10-5 in duals. "Damian was so close to being an ACC Champion and NCAA qualifier last season," Garland said. "He hasn't reached the goals he's capable of, which is why we're expecting him to reach for the stars this year because he's just that good."
Freshman Brett Fiorito is a state champion from Pennsylvania. He was the No. 5 recruit in the country at his weight class. He'll probably redshirt and develop as much as he can this season.
Another senior veteran that returns is Mike Grogran at 174 pounds. Grogan has been the ACC runner-up two of the last three seasons. He won 20 matches last season and went 4-1 in ACC duals. "Mike is very good on top. It's definitely his best position, which makes him hard to wrestle," Garland said. "A lot of the good wrestlers around the country are all good on the mat. He's developed as a good top wrestler on the mat. That should help him achieve his goals."
Rocco Caponi redshirted last season after making the move from 174 pounds to 184 pounds. Caponi went 22-4, while wrestling in open tournaments at 184 pounds. He is preseason ranked as high as No. 12 by W.I.N. Magazine. "Rocco went to the NCAAs as a true freshman. He knows what it's like to wrestle at the highest level. He's a guy that needs to win big matches for us. One of the reasons why we have such a great schedule was with Rocco in mind. I wanted him to get as many big matches under his belt as possible." Freshman Calvin Cardillo will be pushing Caponi for much of the year.
Brent Jones was a FILA Junior National Champion over the summer. He won 20 matches last season as freshman for the Cavaliers and led the team with eight pins. In his first ever college match, he beat the No. 6 ranked wrestler in the country. Jones wanted to redshirt this season and focus on training and developing his skills. Senior captain Kyle Narkiewicz makes the jump from 184 pounds to 197 pounds. Narkiewicz was an ACC Finalist for the Cavaliers last season going 22-10 and 12-4 in duals. Behind him is freshman Joe DeGarivilla, who wrestles smart. He prepped at Downington High School in Downington, Penn.
Senior Scott Smith redshirted last season and spent time wrestling at 197 pounds and heavyweight. He makes the move to heavyweight this season. He won nine matches last season wrestling in open tournaments. He was selected to the inaugural All-ACC Academic Wrestling team. "Scott is an intelligent guy," Garland said. "We're going to hope that that intelligence in the classroom carries over to his intelligence on the mat. He's got to wrestle smart since he's bumping up a weight class. There's a way to wrestle heavyweight. There's a different style of wrestling when you get that high up. He's extremely strong. He puts up more weight in the weight room than I've ever seen, which will help him in the transition." Behind Smith is freshman Jack Danilkowicz, who was third in the junior nationals in roman Greco this past summer. He could move into the starting role as well.