March 3, 2009
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland wrestling team will look to defend last season's Atlantic Coast Conference championship Saturday when the Terrapins travel to Blacksburg, Va., for the 2009 ACC Championship.
The Terps finished third in the ACC in the regular season, going 3-2 in ACC duals and 10-8-1 in dual meets, overall. However, Maryland comes into the tournament on a hot streak, having won six of its final seven duals to close the season. The host Virginia Tech Hokies are the favorites on paper, finishing a perfect 5-0 in the ACC this season.
Maryland is looking for its 22nd ACC Championship and has won more ACC titles than any other conference institution.
"We are ready. The conference showed its strength by the number of qualifiers we earned," Maryland head coach Kerry McCoy said. "Now, it's all about getting to the big show. Everyone knows what needs to be done individually to get to St. Louis, so now we just have to go do it."
Whereas in the past, ACC grapplers often needed to win their weight class to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships, the improved strength of the conference has earned nearly double the automatic bids this year. Last season, the ACC was allocated only 14 automatic bids. However, the NCAA's mathematic formula has determined the conference will receive 27 bids this year.
The Terps sent six wrestlers to the NCAA Championships last season, including five individual ACC champions. Maryland's returning champions include Steven Bell (133), Brian Letters (157) and Hudson Taylor (197). Letters was the champion at 157 pounds last year, but has competed at 165 this season. Overall, three of the seven returning champions hail from Maryland.
Bell, Taylor and 141-pounder Alex Krom all went a perfect 5-0 in ACC duals this season and figure to be the top seeds in their respective weight classes when they are announced Friday. Check umterps.com for information on seeding once it becomes available.
The tournament gets underway at 11 a.m. Saturday at Virginia Tech's Cassel Coliseum. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youths.
Live video of the championship will be available via ACCSelect.com. TheACC.com will also provide live brackets.
MARYLAND LINEUP (NCAA automatic bids per weight class listed in parentheses)
125 - Brendan Byrne (2)
133 - No. 11 Steven Bell (3)
141 - No. 10 Alex Krom (5)
149 - Steve Fehnel (3)
157 - Kyle John (3)
165 - Brian Letters (1)
174 - Corey Peltier (1)
184 - Bradley Nielson (2)
197 - No. 9 Hudson Taylor (4)
HWT - Patrick Gilmore (3)