Maryland pulls away for ACC title
Terps pick up fourth team championship in five years
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Four Terrapin wrestlers won individual titles and seven Terps earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships as the Maryland wrestling team won its second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title and fourth championship in the last five years Saturday night at Carmichael Arena. It is the Terps 24th conference title which is the most of any ACC school.
Senior Kyle John (157) and sophomores Jimmy Sheptock (174) and Christian Boley (197) won their first conference championships, and sophomore Spencer Myers won his second in as many years to lead the Terps to 83 points. Virginia finished second with 73.5.
"We want to do this every year,” head coach Kerry McCoy said. “Our expectation is to be the best team in the conference. You can't be one of the best teams in the country if you are not one of the best teams in your conference. Our conference is getting better. We have to work harder to stay with our conference. As the conference gets better, we get better, and that's the best thing about it.”
The Terps entered the championship round with 67 points to narrowly lead Virginia (64.5) and Virginia Tech (60.5), but John put Maryland up for good in memorable fashion.
Maryland trailed Virginia by 3.5 points and Virginia Tech by 0.5 points after Nick Nelson (UVa) claimed a title at 141 and Nick Brascetta (VT) earned a decision at 149. After a tightly contested first period, John forced top-seeded Corey Mock of North Carolina onto his back to earn a pin 4:11 into the match and shift the momentum in the Terps favor. For John, it was his first ACC title after finishing runner-up the last two seasons.
"Really what cemented it was Kyle John's pin,” McCoy said. “Virginia had one guy left and Virginia Tech had one guy left. I think the defining moment was KJ getting the fall because that was something that propelled us forward.”
At 174, Sheptock took control of his match early and never let up. He dispatched of Virginia Tech’s Chris Moon with a 10-2 major decision. Sheptock’s victory put Maryland up by 5.5 against Virginia Tech.
Boley became Maryland’s third champion of the evening with a 13-3 major decision against Zac Bennett of North Carolina in the 197-pound final.
Myers concluded the meet with a 3-1 decision against Chris Penny of Virginia Tech. Myers is now a two-time ACC champion.
The Terps placed a conference-high seven wrestlers in the finals. At 125, sophomore Shane Gentry defeated Virginia Tech’s Erik Spjut in the semifinals to clinch a spot at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
Freshman Geoffrey Alexander earned a technical fall against NC State’s Ben Elliot in the opening round and followed it up with an upset victory against Virginia’s Matt Nelson in the semifinals. Nelson defeated Alexander 4-2 in the squad’s dual meet in January.
Junior Josh Asper, who entered the championships undefeated, knocked off Kyle Kiss of North Carolina at 165 in the semifinals. Asper lost a 6-4 decision to Peter Yates of Virginia Tech in a sudden-victory final.
"It just shows that our guys are doing the right stuff and are working hard,” McCoy said. “The best thing is we only graduate one senior so we'll have all of these guys back next year. We are building something good here.”
The NCAA will hold the selection show for the 2012 NCAA Championships Wednesday, March 7. Seven Terrapins are guaranteed a spot in St. Louis. Four at-large bids will be handed out per weight class.