With UNC trailing 7-6, redshirt junior Christian Barber pushed the Tar Heels ahead — his takedown of N.C. State freshman Sam Melikian in the 149-pound weight class gave North Carolina a 9-7 lead.
“I didn’t wrestle my greatest during the first two periods,” Barber said. “I knew I had to get the win for the team and I just had to trust my instinct.”
The Tar Heels held an 18-7 advantage over the Wolfpack after three consecutive decision victories by Chris Mears, Ethan Ramos and John Michael Staudenmayer.
The turning point in the dual came when N.C. State’s heavyweights took the mats. Nicky Hall pinned UNC’s Scott Marmoll in the 184-pound bout to pick up a crucial six points and get the Wolfpack back in striking distance. N.C. State picked up three more points in the 197-pound bout to decrease the deficit to 18-16 heading into the final match.
In the final match, N.C. State redshirt junior Nick Gwiazdowski lived up to his undefeated No. 1 ranking as he easily pinned UNC senior Frank Abbondanza to finish off the comeback and give State the 22-18 victory.
“Frank can go up against anyone, but the kid that he was going against was a beast,” Mock said.
Even in defeat, UNC had plenty of individual accomplishments — making the loss sting even worse.
“It’s a tough loss because guys like Ethan (Ramos) and Troy (Heilmann) did their job against State,” Barber said. “To win you’ve got to have six or seven guys perform and we had a couple of downfalls today.”
For Mock, the loss came down to toughness more than overall talent.
“In the locker room after the State dual I told the guys that we’re a better team than State, but we weren’t as tough as they were,” Mock said. “We didn’t exemplify the toughness that is needed to be nationally competitive, so we’ll spend a lot of time talking about how we can be tougher.”