Tar Heels fall short in dual meet against ASU
For Evan Henderson, there was no solace in merely doing his part.
The sophomore wrestler, ranked 19th in the country in his 141-pound weight class, may have secured a major decision during North Carolina’s dual meet with Arizona State, but Henderson regarded his performance — and that of his team — with pure contempt.
That underwhelming performance left Henderson to conduct some soul-searching in the wake of UNC wrestling’s 21-16 loss to the Sun Devils Friday night at Carmichael Arena.
“I should be ashamed of what I did out there,” a despondent Henderson said in his team’s training facility. “It doesn’t matter if I win — I didn’t do what I needed to do.
“I mean, yeah, I got the major, but I shouldn’t have let the guy up, I should have got up — there’s a whole bunch of ‘shoulds’ and not a lot of ‘dids.’ I’m not happy with myself.”
Henderson’s dejected tone contrasted starkly with UNC’s promising start to the dual meet with ASU, the Tar Heels’ first of the season.
Decisions by freshman Joey Ward and redshirt freshmen Christian Barber and John Staudenmayer, as well as Henderson’s major decision, staked UNC to a slim 10-6 lead through five bouts.
But the tide abruptly turned during the 174-pound bout in which UNC sophomore Frank Abbondanza, largely overwhelmed by his ASU opponent, became pinned to the mat and automatically ceded six points to the Sun Devils.
Three bouts later, Jake Barnhart conceded yet another pin, handing ASU an insurmountable 21-13 advantage before freshman Nathan Kraisser cut the final margin of defeat to five points.
“It’s unacceptable,” Barnhart said of his defeat.
As coach C.D. Mock explained, simple math was not in his team’s favor.
“In order to win dual meets, five guys have to win. But the other five that don’t win need to give up three point losses,” Mock said. “We won five matches tonight — we lost because we got pinned to two of them.”
“I don’t like getting pinned,” Mock continued. “There’s just no excuse for it, and it’s something that we have to fix.”
Ordinarily, a loss in just the second meet of the season would not create a cause for alarm, but Henderson sensed that both he and his team needed to reevaluate their commitment and approach.
The loss may have stung, but Henderson said the way in which the Tar Heels lost — namely, dropping decisions without salvaging many points — was a greater source of consternation.
“We gotta have a sense of pride when you’re down — not giving up that pin, not giving up those points, not giving up anything,” Henderson said. “It’s like, ‘So what, he’s going to win, but I’m going to get my takedown, I’m going to get my last point, I’m going to score.”
Henderson admitted to committing a similar lapse himself, shouldering ample blame for a performance marred more by a lackluster mental approach than physical errors.
“You need to show that you’re freaking dominant,” Henderson said of his team’s philosophy, “and if you don’t do that, it should be almost considered a loss.
“I lost that match.”
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