- Virginia wrestling head coach Steve Garland has announced the signing of nine student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for the 2011-12 school year.
The Cavaliers' class of 2014 consists of Blaise Butler (Belvidere, Ill./Boylan Catholic) Patrick Gillen (Shelton, Conn./Shelton), Ethan Hayes (New Lebanon, Ohio/Dixie), Nick Kidd (Hyannis, Mass./Mount Herman), Joe Martinez (Platteville, Colo./Greeley West), Zach Nye (Enola, Pa./East Pennsboro), Mason Popham (Kennett Square, Pa./Unionville), Vinny Waldhauser (El Dorado Hills, Calif./Oak Ridge) and David Wesley (Mineral, Va./St. Christopher's).
"Here at the University of Virginia we have to recruit a certain type of student-athlete," Garland said. "We have to be very selective because this school is so demanding academically. We have to find the rare kid who we think can not just survive here, but thrive here academically, while at the same time balancing the demands of our training regimen. The guys that can do this are hard to find, but we feel like we brought in these types of student-athletes with this class. We obviously filled some real needs in terms of the weight classes we brought in, but most importantly we feel like we have brought in a great group of people that have high character and will represent this great university very well."
Here is a breakdown of each student-athlete, with their prospective college weights in parentheses:
Blaise Butler (149/157 pounds)
• Junior National All-American
• Fila Cadet runner-up
• Two-time Illinois state placewinner
"Blaise is another young man that after meeting him and his family we just felt like we couldn't let him get away," Garland said. "He is one of the most explosive athletes of this class and probably that we have on our entire roster at this point. We love the way he constantly attacks and the fact that he is able to hit moves that most kids his age just can't execute. Blaise hasn't even come close to hitting his potential yet, and we expect him to wrestle at a much higher weight class than he is competing at now. Expect to see him at 157 pounds here at UVa."
Patrick Gillen (197 pounds/heavyweight)
• New England champion
• Connecticut state champion
• Three-time NHSCA All American (seventh as junior, fourth as sophomore, third as freshman)
• Super 32 placewinner
"Gillen is another one of those guys that after meeting him for five minutes you know that this school would be a perfect match for him," Garland said. "He is one of the most articulate young men I have ever met. He is just a great all-around guy that we think will complement the dynamic of this team's culture very well. On top of this though, he has some amazing credentials. Patrick is a three-time NHSCA All American, New England Champion and multiple state champion. He is another one of those guys that is constantly looking for competition. His father has put in countless hours bringing him to every tough wrestling event they could find and it will undoubtedly pay off down the road. We expect Patrick to start off at 197 but will probably move up to heavyweight at some point in his career."
Ethan Hayes (Heavyweight)
• Ohio state champion
• Two-time Ohio state finalist
"Ethan is a state champion from one of the greatest wrestling states in the country in Ohio," Garland said. "He has competed against some of the best in the nation his entire high school career. He is looking for his second state title this season at 215 pounds but is projected to wrestle heavyweight for us. The thing that attracted me to Ethan was his humility. Here I am in this young man's house talking with him about his state championship, and all he can talk about are his teammates and coaches. He's pretty special."
Nick Kidd (184/197 pounds)
• Currently ranked No. 20 nationally at 189
• Placed third at prep nationals
• Placewinner at Beast of the East
• Massachusetts state champion
• Placed fourth at Super 32
"Nick took third place at the National Prep Championships last season, with his only loss coming against the then-No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country," Garland said. "We look forward to him winning that national championship this season and much much more. Nick is a very hard wrestler to scout because he is a very tall wrestler for his weight class and uses his leverage very well. His best position is top and we feel like this will set him apart in college."
Joe Martinez (133 pounds)
• Currently ranked No. 10 nationally by InterMat at 130
• NHSCA Champion (junior division)
• NHSCA runner up (sophomore division)
• Two-time Colorado state champion and three-time state finalist
"What Joe has done at the state level is already extremely impressive, but what he has been able to accomplish at the national level is what really got us excited," Garland said. "Joe has competed at all the biggest national events, taking second at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals and winning the NHSCA Junior National Championship this past spring. We think that competing at this high a level will make him an immediate impact guy on our team."
Zach Nye (197 pounds)
• Currently ranked No. 14 nationally by InterMat at 215
• Pennsylvania state runner-up
• Took third place at Super 32
"Zach embodies everything we want in a wrestler here at Virginia," Garland said. "He is an intelligent, focused and hard working kid that won us over from the first phone call we had with him. I remember getting off the phone with him and telling my wife, ‘I have to have this guy.' On top of the fact that he's such a great kid, he's a stud on the mats as well. He placed second in the state as a junior in Pennsylvania, in arguably the toughest state in the country for wrestling, and has his sights set on the championship this year."
Mason Popham (141 pounds)
• Took fourth at NHSCA junior nationals
• Placed seventh at Pennsylvania states
"Mason has a great feel for wrestling," Garland said. "He comes from a great area of the country for our sport and has competed against the best of the best his entire life. This past spring he finished fourth at the NHSCA Junior National Championships and this is when we started the recruiting process with him. However, it was after getting to know Mason through the course of many phone conversations that I began to really get excited. I think that his best days are yet to come."
Vinny Waldhauser (165 pounds)
• Currently ranked No. 12 nationally at 171
• Two-time Calfornia state placewinner
• State runner-up last year
• Took fourth at sophomore nationals
"Vinny has tons of raw ability," Garland said. "He is just a very gifted athlete. He has a knack for pinning people as well and in our world that is a heck of a good thing. Vinny was a NHSCA All American before his junior season even began but he got on the national stage by battling to the state finals match last year in California (California is one of the only states that still has one true state champion for the entire state). He has set some high goals for himself this season and we look forward to following along."
David Wesley (157 pounds)
• Currently ranked No. 17 nationally at 160
• NHSCA Junior National Champion
• National prep runner up
• Took fourth at Super 32
"David is another guy that wrestles everywhere," Garland said. "We love this about him. The best kids seek out the best competition. This is what David does as well as anybody in the country. If you looked up all the major offseason events over the past three years, it is a good bet that David was there doing well. David is as strong a kid as I've ever recruited. He is very good defensively and very hard to score on. We feel that his mentality sets him apart from most. He had his breakout tournament in winning the NHSCA Junior National Championship this past March and we think the best is yet to come."