UNC wrestling clinches five NCAA spots at ACC Championships

The North Carolina wrestling team competed at the ACC Wrestling Championships on Saturday at N.C. State. Five Tar Heels punched their tickets to the NCAA Wrestling Championships in two weeks, but no UNC wrestler won an individual championship.

What happened?

North Carolina saw six wrestlers advance to the semifinals of their respective tournaments: redshirt senior Joey Ward at 141 pounds, redshirt junior Troy Heilmann at 149, first-year Devin Kane at 165, redshirt junior Ethan Ramos at 174, junior Daniel Chaid at 197 and redshirt sophomore Cory Daniel at 285.

Ward lost in the semifinals, but Heilmann followed that up with a 6-5 win against No. 2 seed Sam Speno of N.C. State. He was the first Tar Heel of the day to advance to a final and the first to clinch an automatic bid to St. Louis.

Kane lost in the semis. Ramos, the No. 2 seed, won his semifinal match against Connor Bass of Duke, 17-5. UNC’s third semifinalist of the day was Chaid, who won 8-6.

Ward and Daniel bounced back by winning consolation matches. These wins gave them third-place finishes and gave UNC two more automatic tournament bids.

Virginia Tech spoiled all three of the remaining Tar Heels’ championship hopes. Jared Haught beat Chaid 6-3 and Solomon Chisko defeated Heilmann 12-7. In North Carolina’s closest championship loss, Zach Epperly got revenge against Ramos, who defeated Epperly in last year’s 174 final.

Who stood out?

Chaid and Heilmann both made impressive runs as No. 3 seeds. Heilmann may have UNC’s best win of the day with his 6-5 decision over Speno.

Unfazed by their semifinal losses, Ward and Daniel finished strong and kept their seasons. As a redshirt senior, Ward will have one final shot in this year’s NCAA tournament.

When was it decided?

Ramos entered the 174-pound championship the defending champion and UNC’s best chance for an individual championship. However, he wasn’t able to beat Epperly two years in a row.

Heilmann lost before Ramos and Chaid lost after him. UNC finished the competition with a solid showing but no hardware to bring back to Chapel Hill.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina a number of talented individual wrestlers and that showed in today’s tournament. UNC went just 8-6 in the regular season, though.

The Tar Heels will look to finish strong by making some noise in the NCAA tournament.

When do they play next?

North Carolina will travel to St. Louis for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which take place Mar. 16-18 in the Scottrade Center.

@chapelfowler

sports@dailytarheel.com

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