March 7, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Juniors Brendan Byrne, No. 11 Steven Bell and No. 10 Alex Krom all won individual Atlantic Coast Conference titles, giving the University of Maryland wrestling team enough of a lift to propel the Terrapins to the 2009 ACC championship Saturday at Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum.
After finishing third in the regular season, the Terps out-lasted Virginia and 15th-ranked Virginia Tech to win their second consecutive conference championship and 22nd overall, the most of any ACC institution.
The Terps finished with 70 points, out-scoring Virginia by two for the second consecutive season. The host Hokies, the undefeated regular-season champion and favorite coming in, finished third with 57.5 points. North Carolina (54.5), NC State (49.5) and Duke (30.5) rounded out the field.
Virginia led all schools with four individual champions. NC State had two and Duke one. Virginia Tech had five grapplers in the championship round, but was shut out.
"It feels pretty good," Maryland head coach Kerry McCoy said of winning the conference title in his first season in College Park. "I really want to thank all our fans who made it down here and all the administrators who came, too. We couldn't have done it without them."
Byrne set the tone for the Terps in the first match of the final session by upsetting No. 12 Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech. Garnett led early, but Byrne gave Garnett fits on top, not letting the talented Hokie freshman gain any ground. Byrne led almost throughout the final period and his tough ride through the second period earned him the riding-time point, which proved to be the difference in his 7-6 victory.
It was Byrne's first ACC title and the program's first-ever 125-pound ACC champion. Byrne got to the finals by defeating North Carolina's Nick Shields by a 10-1 major decision in the semifinals after receiving a first-round bye.
Bell trailed North Carolina's Mike Rappo 4-1 early on in the 133-pound championship bout, but proved too strong for the Tar Heels' redshirt sophomore. Bell registered a couple takedowns and a three-point near fall en route to an 11-7 victory. Bell edged NC State's Darrius Little, 2-1, earlier in the semifinals.
It was Bell's second straight conference title.
Krom controlled the 141-pound championship match, easily dictating the action against No. 18 Chris Diaz of Virginia Tech. Other than a late score by Diaz, Krom set the tone and fended off almost all of Diaz's scoring attempts. In the end, Krom prevailed with an 8-5 decision. Earlier in the day, Krom was seriously challenged by No. 17 Nick Nelson of Virginia. However, Krom hung on for the 4-3 victory to advance to the finals.
With Krom's victory, the Terps now own back-to-back ACC championships at 141 pounds, as Jon Kohler took the title a year ago. It was Krom's first ACC title.
"Byrne, Bell and Krom have been setting the tone all year and they set the tone again with their victories," McCoy said. "It was another great week for those guys."
No. 9 Hudson Taylor came into the 197-pound championship match as a heavy favorite against No. 19 Brent Jones of Virginia. However, Jones stunned the All-American Taylor, getting him on his back early and pinning the defending conference champion in just 38 seconds.
Jones was named the ACC Championship's Most Outstanding Wrestler for his efforts.
However, Taylor still earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. Taylor got to the championship match with a first-round pin of NC State's Joe Trotto in 1 minute, 11 seconds, followed by a 10-0 major decision against Virginia Tech's D.J. Bruce.
North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech each qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Championships. Maryland and NC State claimed four NCAA bids apiece and Duke qualified one.
Thanks to a pair of third-place finishes from Brian Letters (165 pounds) and Corey Peltier (174 pounds), the Terps gained ground on the field during the consolation stage and pulled into first place heading into the finals.
Letters defeated NC State's Quinton Godley, 3-0, in the consolation semifinals before holding off Virginia Tech's Matt Epperly, 8-6, in the third-place match. Peltier, a freshman, defeated North Carolina's Ben Fiacco, 8-4, to get to the third-place match, where he beat Duke's Voris Tejada, 4-3. Despite their strong finishes, neither Letter nor Peltier earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
Redshirt freshman Kyle John (157 pounds) and sophomore heavyweight Patrick Gilmore both finished fourth to add more points to Maryland's total. Gilmore needed a third-place finish to earn an NCAA bid, but lost a tough match, 3-2, to Virginia Tech's David Marone.
"Without a doubt, those guys are the reason we won the championship," McCoy said of his consolation placers. "There's an old adage in our sport that championships are won in the trenches. The bonus points we got in some of those matches really got us in the hunt.
"I told those guys they couldn't give up because they weren't going to the NCAA Tournament and that they could score some more points and help us win a conference championship. If they get down on themselves and roll over there, we don't win. It was a total team effort."
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will announce the wild card berth to the NCAA Championships Wednesday. Gilmore and Letters figure to be the Terps' best hopes for wild card berths.
With today's first-place finish, McCoy won his first conference championship in four years as a Division I head coach.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1. Maryland - 70
2. Virginia - 68
3. Virginia Tech - 57.5
4. North Carolina - 54.5
5. NC State - 49.5
6. Duke - 30.5
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS RESULTS
125 - Brendan Byrne (MD) dec. No. 12 Jarrod Garnett (VT), 7-6
133 - No. 11 Steven Bell (MD) dec. Mike Rappo (NC), 11-7
141 - No. 10 Alex Krom (MD) dec. No. 18 Chris Diaz (VT), 8-5
149 - No. 3 Darrion Caldwell (ST) major dec. No. 15 Nick Stabile (NC), 13-1
157 - Kody Hamrah (ST) fall over No. 19 Jesse Dong (VT), 4:00
165 - No. 17 Keegan Mueller (NC) dec. Mike Sewell (VA), 4-1
174 - No. 7 Chris Henrich (VA) major dec. Anthony Trongone (VT), 10-1
184 - Rocco Caponi (VA) dec. Tommy Spellman (VT), 4-1
197 - No. 19 Brent Jones (VA) fall over No. 9 Hudson Taylor (MD), :38
HWT - No. 5 Konrad Dudziak (DU) dec. Justin Dobies (NC), 7-5