Current Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2014 07:55:11 -0400
Last year on the second weekend in January, the North Carolina wrestling team lost to Edinboro and The Citadel which began a six-match losing streak that lasted until the early days of February.
This year on the second weekend in January — this Saturday and Sunday in Clarion, Pa. and Philadelphia, respectively — UNC won all three of its dual meets: 23-21 against Michigan State, 21-19 against Clarion and 24-10 against Drexel.
And head coach C.D. Mock can pinpoint exactly why his team has avoided the setbacks that afflicted it a year ago.
“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” Mock said of the reversal in success. “But the one thing is that the guys have bought in … You’ve got to believe.
“That wasn’t happening last year.”
That belief led the Tar Heels to their first dual win against a Big Ten opponent since they beat Purdue in 2007 and a rare three-meet sweep.
“It’s been a long time since we got three wins in one weekend,” Mock said. “It’s very encouraging (and) very exciting.”
One of the biggest reasons for the team’s enthusiasm is the performance of freshman Nathan Kraisser.
Kraisser, the 12th-ranked wrestler in the country for the 125-pound weight class, won all three of his matches, two by decision and one by technical fall.
But it wasn’t easy.
Mock said the freshman had “significant adversity” on Saturday because he had a tough time cutting weight and had little time to rest between back-to-back matches.
“His legs gave out,” Mock said, “but he fought through it and won the match.”
Kraisser said little of his personal success, but it’s clear that his consistency has played a key role in the Tar Heels’ improvement.
“It’s great to show we’re improving, we’re up-and-coming, we’re fighting to be a national contender,” Kraisser said. “The momentum will hopefully help us finish strong.”
Kraisser agreed with his coach that the team’s faith in the coaches, the wrestlers and the direction of the program has been the main reason why it’s in a much better place than it was on Jan. 14, 2012.
“Everyone wants to help the team, no one wants to let the team down, everyone has bought into the system,” Kraisser said. “I think that’s one of the biggest reasons for our success.”
Mock said his restructuring of the coaching staff and the arrival of fresh faces like Kraisser’s have sparked the revival.
“There is a completely different dynamic on the team because of some new guys,” Mock said.
And he said the Tar Heels have only scratched the surface of their potential.
“We still made a lot of mistakes, we’re a very young team,” he said.
“We’re not yet even close to where we can be.”
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