Friday, July 10, 2015

FOV Cavalier of the Year #1/#2

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday (a bit late this year) in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. The full list of nominees is here.

 Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Today's athletes: Josh Sborz and Nick Sulzer.

Josh Sborz - Baseball - Pitcher

Team accomplishments:

-- National champions

Personal accomplishments:

-- College World Series Most Outstanding Player
-- Second-team all-ACC
-- ACC saves leader (tied)
-- NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list
-- 74th overall pick in MLB draft

After a couple cracks at it that fell a bit short, UVA won a College World Series this year - the 23rd national title won by the school and probably the highest-profile of the bunch.  It wasn't easy (not that it ever is, but the road was a very unlikely one) and there's no way it happens without Josh Sborz.

Sborz's MOP title really only covers the games played in Omaha, but it might as well have been for the whole tournament.  When the regular season ended, his stat line read 12 saves, ERA 2.49, and a 2-2 record.  Sborz opened the postseason by shutting out Georgia Tech in a seven-inning complete game that ended by mercy rule.  He then pitched in every game in the Lake Elsinore regional, once in the super-regional, and in four of seven games in Omaha.  That's a total of nine postseason games, and Sborz:

- earned a win or a save in all but one of them
- didn't allow a single earned run (and only one unearned one)
- allowed 7 hits, walked 7, struck out 24, in 26 innings, for an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.54.

At the end of it all, the new stat line is 15 saves, ERA of 1.60, and a 7-2 record.

Brandon Waddell easily had the gutsiest performances in the tournament.  Nathan Kirby, the best story.  But I can't think of a more dominant postseason anyone has had in a UVA baseball uniform than this one.  Sborz flipped easily from the bullpen to a starter's role and back, and his presence as a nigh-unhittable super-reliever is probably the single biggest reason (out of a huge host of very big reasons) that UVA brought a trophy home from Omaha.

Nick Sulzer - Wrestling - 165 lbs.

Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions
-- 19th place at NCAA nationals

Personal accomplishments:

-- ACC champion at 165 lbs
-- NCAA 5th place at 165 lbs
-- Third straight all-American status
-- Finished career with second-most wins (122) in program history
-- Finished career with most NCAA wins (15) and NCAA championship bouts (24) in program history
-- One-time ACC Wrestler of the Week
-- Academic all-ACC wrestling team

Sulzer checks in with his second COY nomination, having been passed the mantle from Chris Henrich as the program's marquee wrestler.  Ten years ago that would've been no real accomplishment.  UVA is now a national program, having finished in the top 25 at the NCAAs in most recent years and adding a couple ACC championships to the total.  This year's win wasn't even close.  UVA didn't go in as the favorite or even second-favorite, but the eventual margin of victory was more than comfortable.

Nick Sulzer was a senior this year, so his accomplishments include some pretty impressive final career marks.  He's a two-time ACC champion and three-time all-American, and set UVA records for number of wins and total bouts at the NCAA championships as well.  This season he had a sparkling 32-4 record with 18 of the wins on major decisions.  That wrapped up a career of 122 total wins, second only to Henrich.  And, Sulzer has multiple entries not only on the lists of top wrestling accolades, but academic accolades too.  Sulzer's main accomplishment, though, just might be ensuring the UVA wrestling program has staying power as a national player.

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