UNC wrestling team forced to ?ll a 197-pound hole

North Carolina wrestling coach C.D. Mock acknowledges that dual meets are not his team’s forte.

Despite defeating an undermatched South Dakota State team earlier this season, UNC has also suffered disappointing losses to Arizona State and Nebraska after jumping out to early leads in both duals.

So as the Tar Heels head into three meets this weekend against Clarion, Drexel and Michigan State, Mock said each of his pregame talks will convey one message — secure five wins and give up losses by no more than three points.

“We need five wins. And we need the other guys to not give up anything other than a regular, three-point loss — no majors, no techs, no pins,” Mock said. “Going into every dual meet for the remainder of the year, that will be our focus.”

The trip to Pennsylvania will be the second for the Tar Heels this season. At Penn State’s Nittany Lion Open in December, 197-pound redshirt sophomore Antonio Giorgio suffered a concussion, leaving a hole in UNC’s roster.

But just as he did during much of last season, 174-pound sophomore Frank Abbondanza will most likely be the one to pick up the slack by wrestling up two weight classes.

“I’m pretty comfortable wrestling up,” Abbondanza said. “I had to bump up from 174 to heavyweight for all of last season so I’m used to wrestling some bigger guys. It doesn’t really phase me. Anything that’s going to help the team get a win I am more than happy to do.”

Although he is comfortable with taking on the responsibility of filling in for Giorgio, Abbondanza said that he must make some minor adjustments as he prepares to wrestle up.

“You approach wrestling someone bigger than you with the same mentality, but you kind of have to adjust to a different style,” he said. “Obviously you’re going up against someone who’s stronger, but with that comes someone who might not be as fast.

“You have to play with the strengths and weaknesses of the situation and tweak your game slightly,” he said.

While Mock recognizes the challenge Abbondanza will undoubtedly face, he more importantly commends his wrestler’s selflessness and dedication to the team.

“It’s like David going up against Goliath,” he said. “But Frank’s not afraid. He’s ready and can go up against anybody.

“One of the most fun and exciting things as a coach is when a guy is willing to make that kind of sacrifice for the team. It’s inspiring to the rest of the team.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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