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Q and A with Virginia coach Steve Garland



Steve Garland’s Virginia team is off to another strong start this season. Thomas Wilson photo.

Steve Garland is in his dream job as the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers.

Garland, a past All-American wrestler for Virginia, has led the Cavaliers to a No. 11 national ranking this season.

He led his alma mater to the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2010, the school’s first since 1977. He also led his team to a 15th-place finish at the NCAAs and was named ACC Coach of the Year that season.

Garland is in his seventh season at Virginia. The Cavaliers are 12-3 overall and 3-1 in the ACC in dual-meet competition this season.

His team has nationally ranked wrestlers in Matt Snyder (No. 7 at 125 pounds), George DiCamillo (No. 13 at 133), Derek Valenti (No. 19 at 149), Jedd Moore (No. 10 at 157), Nick Sulzer (No. 7 at 165) and Jon Fausey (No. 19 at 174).

Valenti was an All-American in 2011, placing eighth at the NCAA tournament before redshirting last season.

Garland excelled as a wrestler during his college days, placing second at the 2000 NCAA tournament for Virginia at 125 pounds.

Garland was an assistant coach at Cornell under Rob Koll for six seasons before taking over the Virginia program in 2006.

Garland took time out of his busy schedule to talk with USA Wrestling communications manager Craig Sesker about how his team is progressing this season.

How do you feel about the way your team is wrestling this season?

We are gaining some national attention, and that’s a big deal for us. The season’s been awesome – it’s been going by really fast with our guys having a lot of success. We have kicked our level of competition up a notch and our kids have kicked their level of wrestling up a notch. Our results have been better this year.

What is driving your team to succeed this season?

We had a disappointing finish to the season last year. We had six guys in the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament, but then we lost five matches in a row by two points or less. We were completely devastated – it was so heartbreaking for all of us. We decided to upgrade our schedule this season. We wanted to do everything we could to prevent us from having that feeling again.

What kind of role has senior Matt Snyder played for your team?

Matt has meant so much to our program. I can’t say enough about what he’s done. He’s been wrestling well for us and he keeps elevating his game. He is a fifth-year senior who is working on his master’s degree in kinesiology. He is heavily involved in ministry and hopes to go to medical school. He is a special young man who is a positive role model for us. He’s one of the smartest student-athletes I’ve ever been around.

How much of an impact has true freshman George DiCamillo had in the lineup at 133?

He’s the best recruit I’ve brought in. We knew he was a special wrestler. He’s mentally tough and he has a strong desire to win. He’s very serious about his studies and he fit in with our guys right away. We believe he’s the next big thing for Virginia wrestling. He’s tough as nails. Whoever draws him will be in for a fight.

How strong is the middle of your lineup this season?

We have Derek Valenti at 149, and he was an All-American two years ago. He’s lost some close matches to some top kids this year, but he has the experience of doing well in the national tournament. At 157, Jedd Moore beat (All-American) James Green from Nebraska this year and he won the Southern Scuffle. Moore has had a great season for us. At 165, Nick Sulzer is our most talented athlete. He’s a really gifted kid who is wrestling well for us.

How important of a role have your assistant coaches played in your team’s success?

Alex Clemsen has done a very good job. He’s extremely organized and meticulous. He takes pride in what he’s doing and he’s made a big impact with our team. Jordan Leen is a guy I recruited and coached at Cornell. He won an NCAA title and he’s a great role model. He’s done a really good job of bonding with our guys. He has added a new dimension with his technique – it’s really good. And we also have Nate Carr Jr., who has done a very good job with our guys. I’ve been very impressed with what he’s done for us.

What did you learn in your time coaching under Rob Koll at Cornell?

I learned everything from him. I was about as raw as you can imagine when I started coaching. Rob never stopped teaching. He talked about communication, and how important that is when being a head coach. He’s very good at it. I went with him when he gave a speech to a group. He just lit up the room and was very charismatic. I saw how he talked with donors and gained support for the Cornell program. That made a big impact on me. I watched how he recruited and how he worked with the athletes. The more I learned the more responsibility he gave me. He had me run practices. He was very loyal to me and I was very loyal to him. He helped me get my dream job at Virginia. I can’t say enough good things about Rob Koll.

What are your goals for the rest of the season?

We hope to get to the final four of the National Duals. Our team has really come together and we are excited to see what we can do. We want to get all 10 guys to the national tournament and get as many All-Americans as we can. We want guys who have a goal of becoming a national champion. That’s what we are shooting for.

How proud are you of your team’s accomplishments in the classroom?

Our team has done really well academically. All 10 of our starters have a 3.0 grade-point average or better for the second year in a row. We just had 18 wrestlers honored at a basketball game for being on the honor roll. We take a lot of pride in doing well in the classroom. It’s an absolutely important aspect of what we are trying to accomplish here at Virginia.
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