Cavalier Corner

Dec. 2019

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22 CAVALIER CORNER It might be cliché to say that the busi- ness world parallels the athletic realm, but that 's exactly how former UVA wrestler Derek Capanna, now a suc- cessful investment banker, feels. At Virginia in 1989, he and teammate John Matyiko became the program's first All-American wrestlers since 1957. Capanna placed fourth at 177 pounds, while Matyiko finished eighth at heavy- weight at the NCAA Championships. In between them at 190 pounds was another quality grappler in Billy Wagner. The trio pushed each other to success. Capanna noted practice sessions with Matyiko and Wagner "were some of my toughest matches that season." "In the wrestling room, every day, we would go at it," he continued. "You'll see this with a lot of teams — they'll have some wrestlers grouped close to- gether in weight that make each other better by battling every day in the room. I think that was clearly the dy- namic, and why you had John and I earn All-American honors. Billy didn't place, but had a great run that year. "It was fun to be part of a team where there were a number of us that had a chance to place at nationals. That made it much more special — not to do it alone, but to do it with a teammate." Capanna is now a managing director at investment bank UBS and sees the same thing in business, where talented co-workers can bring the best out of each other and elevate the team. He noted there are numerous similarities between his athletic endeavors and professional career, and particularly en- joys the "caliber of the people, the com- petitiveness and how dynamic it is." "There are so many impressive people around you, that challenge you, that make you better, that you learn from," he explained. "It's really not all that dif- ferent, the business world versus what goes on in the wrestling world." Led by Capanna, a redshirt senior in 1989, and Matyiko, the Cavaliers that season placed 27th nationally — the squad's best NCAA finish since 1957. The duo marked the second and third All-Americans in program history, and Capanna's showing is still tied for the seventh-best ever in UVA annals. "It's something I didn't fully realize when I first went down to Virginia, that there had been such a length of time between the last All-American that we had," Capanna, a New Jersey native, noted. "That was something that I think we all were very focused and fixated on trying to change before we left." That mission was accomplished, and the triumphs the program experiences now can all be traced back to what Ca- panna did while on Grounds. Since his redshirt fourth-year season in 1989, the Cavaliers have earned 17 All-America finishes and placed among the nation's top 30 11 times, something it had ac- complished just once prior to his final season. The team has racked up seven top-25 finishes in the last decade alone. "I don't think we fully appreciated it way back then," Capanna said of the team's accomplishments. "We were just trying to win and move forward. "But when you look at that gap from 1957 all the way to '89, and to be the first two in a long period of time to step up and set the bar, bring some real credibility to the program, you feel good about it, you feel proud about it, and you'd like to think we're a small part of the success that the program has continued to have since then." Still, it's not the athletic accomplish- ments Capanna thinks about when he reflects on his time in Charlottesville. It's the lessons he learned through both his wrestling and academic careers that he remembers most fondly, and still uses to this day. "You'll hear this from a lot of people, but it's not really about the wins or losses; it's the experiences," he said. "Some of my best friends way back then are still my best friends today. I've met so many great people in this sport and through Virginia. I take those things away from it — all the attributes, skills, disci- pline and dedication that it taught me." Now, Capanna is a father of three and focuses on making sure he does ev- erything he can to provide others with the same opportunities that got him to where he is today. That has included serving on the board and contributing to KIPP New Jersey, part of the "Knowledge Is Power Pro- gram," a non-profit network of col- lege-preparatory, free, public charter schools. He's also involved with Beat The Streets, a non-profit that blends his passions of wrestling and helping youth. He also continues to support the Vir- ginia Athletics Foundation. "I benefited way back when I was a student-athlete at the university and think about all the things that the uni- versity and VAF have provided and al- lowed for me to do," he said. "It just makes me happy to be in a position to be able to contribute and allow some of the best and brightest student-ath- letes to matriculate to UVA, to prosper there and to be able to prepare them- selves to move on and give a lot back to society." — Ryan Tice CONTINUED SUCCESS: DEREK CAPANNA CONTINUES TO PAY IT FORWARD In 1989, Capanna placed fourth at the NCAA Championships to be- came the second All-American in UVA wrestling history. PHOTO COURTESY UVA Capanna is now a father of three and a manag- ing director for UBS, a Switzerland-based in- vestment bank.

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