If you talk with Steve Garland (Col ’00), it’s clear that UVA’s new wrestling coach is the human incarnation of Jolt cola (1980s-era slogan: “Real sugar, and twice the caffeine!”). He almost pulsates with enthusiasm and energy.
That intensity has propelled Garland throughout his wrestling career, on the mat and on the bench. At Virginia, he was the 2000 ACC Wrestler of the Year and NCAA national runner-up at 125 pounds. From there, he was an assistant coach at Cornell, where in six seasons he helped the Big Red to four consecutive top-11 NCAA finishes, coaching 17 All-Americans, four NCAA finalists and 46 NCAA qualifiers. When promoted to recruiting coordinator, his two classes ranked in the top five nationally.
He takes over a strong program. The Cavaliers went 12-5 overall last season (4-1 in the ACC), placed third in the ACC Championships, and lost no one to graduation. Garland predicts that Eric Albright, ACC Freshman of the Year at 133 pounds, will be an All-American this year. After a redshirt season, third-year Rocco Caponi, ranked 12th nationally at 185 pounds, joins six UVA wrestlers who posted at least 20 victories last season.
To the returning talent, Garland added a recruiting class ranked 22nd nationally, headlined by 141-pounder Kellon Ballum, a two-time Pennsylvania state champion.
“My outlook for these guys is that I want to win ACC duals and the ACC team title,” Garland declares. “It’s been a long, long time. I had the passion to do that when I was here before, and I still do.”