“I was pretty confused with the call, but I put it in the past and focused on the task at hand,” Barber said.
Barber upset Mastriani in the second 30-second tiebreaker period. Wrestlers who appear in championship matches automatically earn NCAA bids, so Barber had already clinched a spot in the tournament.
Ward and Ramos joined Barber in receiving All-ACC honors, though none secured a championship victory.
“The real pressure was on winning the semi-final match and securing a spot at NCAAs,” said Ward, “After that, I was able to relax and enjoy my time wrestling in the final.”
Barber and Heilmann each felt this pressure, as their deciding matches both went to overtime. But with a spot in St. Louis on the line, both wrestlers delivered big wins.
For Barber, Heilmann and the other Tar Heels, their late-game success was the result of the work they put in all season long.
“As each match went on, I felt the other guy getting tired as I grew stronger,” Barber said. “I worked hard during my matches, but I never felt winded or exhausted.”
A season of hard work paid dividends for Ward and Ramos as well, as they received first-round byes as top two seeds in their respective weight classes, meaning they only had to win one match each to clinch.
In addition to their work ethics, experience will be key for Barber, Staudenmayer and Ward, who have all appeared in NCAAs before. Hielmann and Ramos will be making their first appearances.
“I don’t like for any of our guys to go (to the NCAA tournament) without having been there before,” Mock said. “Because it can be really overwhelming.”
After a season of anticipation and a successful ACC Tournament, all that’s left is preparing for the biggest stage of all. But the most difficult task of all: waiting until March 19 for the match.
“I’m ready to go right now,” Ward said.