“I try not to think about winning,” Scotton said. “I think about getting the first takedown and then going from there.”
Scotton wrestled Chattanooga’s Brandon Wright evenly for five minutes, but picked up seven points in the final round to prevail 9-4 and seal UNC’s 21-18 win in the dual.
“I knew I needed at least one takedown to win the match, and God willing I was able to get two,” Scotton said.
UNC coach C.D. Mock said although the team’s hopes rested on Scotton, he didn’t need to inspire him any further.
“I don’t have to tell him that because Thomas hates to lose,” he said. “We just tell Thomas the same thing every time: go get that leg.”
Success didn’t last long for North Carolina as they then faced fourth-ranked Wisconsin.
The Tar Heels only took one decision when Danny Lopes shut out Danny Arnel 4-0.
“Wisconsin is pretty tough,” Lopes said. “Everyone wrestled pretty tough, just the Big 10 is tough to wrestle.”
The Badgers, with seven wrestlers out of 10 nationally ranked, proved too much for North Carolina.
But rather than licking their wounds, C.D. Mock and the team look at the dual as a way to improve.
“I wasn’t unhappy with Wisconsin,” the coach said. “They’re tough as nails right now.
“I was really just unhappy with our guys not getting after it to the extent I would’ve liked them to. We seemed a little hesitant, and I just don’t get that.”
Scotton viewed the Badgers as an example of what the Tar Heels could be.
“I’m glad we wrestled them,” he said. “It’s a measuring stick of where we need to be. Maybe this will let us know, ‘Hey, we got to be working to be like these guys.’”
The Tar Heels were able to rally in the final dual against UNC-Greensboro.
Freshman Zac Bennett pinned his opponent for the second time on the day and gave the Tar Heels an early 6-4 lead.
The Spartans took the next two matches in decisions, but UNC 133-pounder Pat Owens then took down Jamel Johnson four times en route to a majority decision that knotted the score at 10.
North Carolina never looked back, winning three of the final five matches.
Scotton once again clinched the victory for UNC, defeating Travis Sheehy as the Tar Heels went on to win 23-17.
“We just stepped it up and wrestled the way we should’ve,” Lopes said. “Everyone looked good compared to Wisconsin.”
Despite taking two out of three duals, C.D. Mock was more concerned with his young team’s development before conference matches.
“I think they did fine,” he said. “We’re wrestling … a lot of younger guys trying to see where they are.
“We’re more focused on establishing where our team is as we move toward the end of the year.”
Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.