Before Friday’s meet against No. 13 Maryland, North Carolina redshirt senior wrestler Kyle Kiss was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his thumb and was told that he was done wrestling, coach C.D. Mock said.
Kiss not only went on to wrestle that night — against the No. 2 wrestler in his weight class — but he chose to compete in Saturday’s meet against Navy, too.
UNC lost to the ACC-leading Terrapins 25-10 and fell to the Midshipmen 25-12 at Carmichael Arena, but Kiss’ toughness typified UNC’s attitude for the weekend — a resilient, never-say-die mindset that left the team with something to build upon as it enters the last two months of the season.
“It was an inspiration to all of us and demonstrative of why he’s a team captain,” C.D. Mock said. “To try to wrestle without a thumb is remarkable.”
The final scores of the two meets were nearly identical, but the momentum in each was anything but.
In Friday’s contest, Maryland (13-0, 3-0 ACC) put UNC (2-13, 1-3) on its back foot from the start.
In the first match of the night — the heavyweight division — No. 8 Spencer Myers pinned UNC freshman Frank Abbondanza in 1:39 to give the Terrapins an early 6-0 lead. The six-point margin was the closest the Tar Heels came to Maryland for the rest of the night.
In Saturday’s meet, on the other hand, UNC led for the majority of the contest before Navy (5-6) reeled off five straight victories and 18 consecutive points to claim the win.
Aside from Kiss’ grittiness, the weekend did offer some bright spots for the Tar Heels.
No. 19 Corey Mock continued his winning streak in the 157-pound division Friday night by defeating No. 11 Kyle John 11-2. His run was at seven in a row before he fell in his match against Navy.
Zac Bennett pinned his 197-pound Navy opponent in 1:34 on Saturday and went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Christian Boley in a loss on Friday.
Bennett said his work in practice was a major reason he was able to secure the pin.
“After I got the takedown secured, I knew that I was going to have to break the guy down. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot with the coaches — getting the guy flat before I go for the pin,” he said. “I broke him down once. … Whenever you feel like you can get the pin, you’ve got to just go for it. And I went for it and it all worked out good.”
Freshman No. 20 Evan Henderson and redshirt senior Thomas Ferguson also had strong weekends for the Tar Heels. Henderson won both of his matches while Ferguson was 1-1, the loss coming by two points to Navy’s only ranked wrestler.
It was Kiss, Ferguson and fellow senior Brock LiVorio’s last regular-season home meets. They were all honored in a ceremony before Saturday’s contest. Redshirt senior Nick Tenpenny was also honored at the ceremony but did not wrestle this weekend.
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