Sandwiched between North Carolina’s wrestling duals with N.C. State and Duke was a less-hyped match-up with the Virginia Military Institute on Friday at Carmichael Arena.
The match would have been easy to overlook, and it would have been simple to lose focus. But the Tar Heels (6-6, 1-3 ACC) did neither, and they were rewarded with a 28-9 win against VMI on Military Appreciation Night at the arena.
“In team sports that’s a bigger deal,” coach C.D. Mock said of the ability to eliminate complacency and not look past an opponent. “In wrestling you’re one-on-one: you’re getting beat up, you’re getting beat up. The motivation to do well is (that) the spotlight’s on you.”
North Carolina was boosted by a strong start from sophomore 184-pounder Alex Utley, who won by a 17-2 technical fall against VMI’s Hardy Hendren. The win lasted just one period, or three minutes, and gave UNC a quick 5-0 lead that set the tone for the rest of the meet.
“I got my offense going right away with a quick takedown,” Utley said. “I was excited to go first — you don’t have to sit around, you don’t get cold. You come right in after your first drill so you’re already warm, you’re already sweating.”