2x ACC champion and U23 World Team member Jay Aiello (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
â€œWe knew when this group started, it could be something special,â€ said Head Coach Steve Garland, â€œwe have put them through the fire with starting so many of them as young guys in the lineup. I've asked them to trust the process and they've gone through some trials the last two years, but God willing, if everyone stays healthy, we could have a really, really special teamâ€.
The Cavaliers return nine starters from last season, but the lineup will have a very different feel this season. Brian Courtney will drop from 141 to 133, filling the spot vacated by All-American Louie Hayes. Jake Keating and Justin McCoy, both ACC Runners-up last season, will flip weights; Keating will move to 157 and McCoy to 165. The team is young, but experienced; Jay Aiello is the lone Senior (eligibility-wise) on the roster that returns eight NCAA Qualifiers. Coach Steve Garland has been excited about this group for years, they have all grown together in the starting lineup and their experience is set to pay off this season.
Aiello is a 3x NCAA Qualifier and has been an ACC Champ and 2x Runner Up. He has been a stable fixture in the lineup and has been a leader for the young group that Garland has put to the test early. Aiello will miss the beginning of the competition season after competing in the U23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Aiello will wrestle at 97kg or 213 pounds and will safely descend to his competition weight of 197 pounds. Jake Keating and Justin McCoy are returning ACC Runners-up and have been consistent performers. They are swapping weights this season, a move that they both feel will benefit them throughout the season. The Cavaliers will return a lineup that contains eight wrestlers ranked in the Intermat Preseason Rankings.
2021 All-American Louie Hayes was one of seven UVA wrestlers to graduate in 2021. Hayes was the only full-time starter that will not be in the 2021-2022 lineup.
Jarod Verkleeren is the new face on Grounds. The Penn State transfer will make an immediate impact stepping in at 149 for the Hoos. Verk was 17-8 and a National Qualifier in his only full season starting in State College. Verkleeren was a Cadet World Champion and has the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC.
A second transfer from the Keystone State snuck in a little more quietly than Verkleeren, but could play a big role this year as well. Jon Errico (157) transferred from Penn, where he was a starter and team captain. He completed his undergrad and is enrolled in the Darden Business School to finish his graduate degree. His younger brother Luca (133) also wrestles for the Hoos.
WRESTLER TO WATCH
Michael Battista made huge strides through the offseason. He enters his third year as a starter and is in position to have a breakout season. Battista had a solid freestyle season this spring and summer. He placed 4th at Senior Nationals and 3rd at U23 Team Trials facing some stout competition along the way. He looks STRONG at 184 but will have a tough conference fight with All-Americans Trent Hidlay and Hunter Bolen.
Brian Courtney slides down to 133 to fill in the spot vacated by the graduation of All-American Louie Hayes. Having watched Courtney at the Blue and Orange Match last week--he is going to be a force at 133 this season. The weight looks very manageable and he is a hammer on top. 133 is a deep weight in the conference, but Courtney could make a run to knock off Korbin Myers and Micky Phillippi.
â€œThe ACC is going to be a battle this year and I'm pretty excited for it. The teams are great across the conference and there will be great matches every week. I like our schedule this year; we are going to see some different teams that we don't usually see,â€ said Garland. â€œThe biggest thing we learned last year is that we need to do whatever we can to get as many guys matches as possible. The extra matches at duals last year were really helpful to getting the younger guys some experience, so we are finding ways to make sure that happens this seasonâ€.
125: Patrick McCormick-NCAA Qualifier, ACC 3rd/Trey Lane
133: #17 Brian Courtney-NCAA Qualifier ACC 4th (141)
141: Dylan Cedeno/Nick Coy
149: #30 Jarod Verkleeren-NCAA Qualifier /Denton Spencer
157: #19 Jake Keating-NCAA Qualifier, ACC 2nd (165)/Jon Errico
165: #20 Justin McCoy-NCAA Qualifier, ACC 2nd (157)
174: #30 Vic Marcelli-NCAA Qualifier, ACC 4th/Hudson Stewart
184: #33 Michael Battista
197: #16 Jay Aiello-3x NCAA Qualifier, 2x ACC Champ, U23 Team/Ethan Weatherspoon
285: #21 Quinn Miller-2x NCAA Qualifier, ACC 3rd/Matuesz Kudra