While Utley’s bout gave North Carolina the final 20-18 victory, the Tar Heels needed key wins in the higher weight classes to run with the Wolfpack, and none of those were more important than freshman Frank Abbondanza’s.
Abbondanza wrestles in the heavyweight division for the Tar Heels, but he is certainly no heavyweight.
In high school he wrestled at 189 pounds and came to UNC listed at 197, but at N.C. State — just like the rest of the season — he wrestled an opponent significantly heavier.
After giving up a takedown to Josh Davis in the first period, Abbondanza managed a pair of escapes to tie the score at two to start the final period.
He started the final two minutes from the top position and held Davis down for nearly 90 seconds before making his move.
As the final seconds ticked away, Abbondanza rolled Davis to his back to snag a crucial near-fall.
“I know he was a lot bigger than me, so it was really my only chance to try and turn him,” Abbondanza said. “When he started picking up and started getting tired, I knew I could get him over and get a couple points.”
For Kolat, the performance of the not-so-heavyweight was the critical point in the match.
“This guy’s has faced 20,000 more pounds than anyone else has faced this year based on his size. … He just does what we need him to do, and tonight we really needed him to do it,” Kolat said.
“Because coming back from four losses, and two of them being pins, I would have never seen that happening, and it all happened because he came through when we needed him to.”
That win gave North Carolina the early 11-0 lead, but N.C. State took three of the next four matchups, including two pins.
The second of those pins gave N.C. State its first lead of the match at 15-14 and set up 157-pounder Corey Mock with a familiar foe in Colton Palmer.
The two wrestled a slow, low-scoring bout. With a 4-0 lead in the final minute, Mock refused Palmer’s shot attempts with relative ease and posted a shutout.
“In high school everyone said that Colton Palmer was going to be able to beat me,” Mock said. “And I will never let that happen.”
After Mock’s win, UNC never surrendered the lead again, giving the Tar Heels their first dual win since Jan. 13 and just their third win of the season.
“It was good for the guys,” Kolat said.
“We’ve been working hard the last two weeks. We’ve implemented some changes and it was good to get a win, especially in this environment.”
Contact the Sports Editor