Knop’s knot | Amid tragedy, Virginia’s McCoy is grateful for his opportunities | Sports

Justin McCoy didn’t know any of the three University of Virginia football players killed in a shooting, but the events of November 13 had a major impact on the Chestnut Ridge graduate student, who is a fifth-year student on the Cavaliers wrestling team.

“I didn’t expect it to hit me so hard,” McCoy said of the deaths of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. “I didn’t know these guys but it made me so grateful for everything I have. The next day I saw my teammates. We all met in the room together. It was emotional to be together.”

The Cavaliers’ doubles meet with Northwestern a week later was also an emotional affair. Virginia wrestlers wore “UVA Strong” t-shirts and patches on their undershirts in honor of the fallen trio. McCoy also wrote the football players’ numbers on his shoes.

“We are doing what we can to honor them and their families,” McCoy said.

The Cavaliers lost a 20-13 dual against the 15th-ranked Wildcats, but McCoy did his part. In ninth national place at Intermat’s 165lb, McCoy beat Northwestern’s David Ferrante 10-4.

McCoy starts the season 4-1, his only loss coming to 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith of Stanford.

“Getting a good guy out of the gate, some people wouldn’t want that, but I thought it was a great thing,” McCoy said.

“It taught me a lot wrestling Shane Griffith. I lost 6-1 but felt it was a lot closer. He beat me straight out in a couple of positions but I think I can do better with that.

McCoy is in Virginia’s two-year graduate program in exercise physiology. The NCAA will allow him to wrestle again next year as the 2020 postseason was canceled due to COVID.

“I plan on using it while my body lasts,” McCoy said of the extra year.

In the ranking: It didn’t take long for North Carolina freshman Jackson Arrington to break into the Intermat rankings. The Forest Hills graduate and three-time PIAA champion is 22nd at 149 pounds thanks to a 6-2 start that includes a win over Central Michigan’s Johnny Lovett, who was 14th.

Max Murin from Iowa moved up to 7th with 149th place. The Central Cambria graduate and two-time PIAA champion is 4-0 in the season with two crucial decisions and two technical falls.

According to Intermat, Jared McGill is 29th at 174 pounds.

The Chestnut Ridge graduate is in his freshman year as a starter at Edinboro after starting his career at Pitt.

Eye on the lions: Penn State is the nation’s highest-ranked duals team, ahead of Big Ten rivals Iowa and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions (1-0) rolled through the Black Knight Invitational with five champions, despite three of their top wrestlers skipping the event.

Beau Bartlett (141), Shayne Van Ness (149), Levi Haines (157), Alex Facundo (165) and Max Dean (197) won championships for the Lions.

Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184) and Greg Kerkvliet (285) all won their bouts at Tuesday’s NWCA All-Star Classic in Austin, Texas.

Starocci beat Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis 2-0. Brooks defeated Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa 12-8. Kerkvliet beat Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi 8-5.

Penn State’s next dual is December 2nd at the Rider.

Pitt Bits: Coach Keith Gavin’s squad fell five places in the rankings to 21st after sharing two ties with Maryland and Lehigh over the weekend. The Panthers (2-1) recovered from an 18-16 loss to the Terrapins to beat the Mountain Hawks 22-12 on Saturday.

Heavyweight newcomer Dayton Pitzer made an impressive debut against Lehigh with a 10-1 win over then-No. 17 Nathan Taylor. Gavin still plans to redshirt Pitzer, who weighs just 217 pounds, to allow the Mount Pleasant graduate to gain weight. He may participate in up to five events for Pitt and still Redshirt.

Pitt’s next duel is December 3 in Illinois. Ranking 141-pounder Cole Matthews dropped a 4-2 decision to win suddenly over northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez in the NWCA All-Star Classic.

Eric Knopsnyder is a freelance writer for The Tribune-Democrat. His college wrestling column will be a regular feature.