Win or die.
That’s how North Carolina senior Thomas Ferguson characterized the UNC wrestling team’s mindset before its meet against Duke on Monday night at Carmichael Arena.
That approach paid dividends for the Tar Heels, as they defeated the Blue Devils 30-5 before a large home crowd to earn their first dual meet win of the season.
“Obviously, 30 to five, we’re pretty happy,” UNC coach C.D. Mock said. “The guys wrestled well … they’ve been training nonstop since (Dec.) 26.”
The Tar Heels were dominant, winning their matches in nine of the 10 weight classes.
Redshirt sophomore Brian Bokoski began the streak of victories with a 4-3 decision against Duke’s Peter Terrezza in the 125-pound weight class, and redshirt sophomore Zac Bennett finished the impressive feat by taking a 5-0 win against the Blue Devils’ Brian Self in the 197-pound division.
The match of the night was UNC redshirt junior Jon Burns’ pin of Duke redshirt freshman Immanuel Kerr-Brown.
After being bumped up a weight class because UNC sophomore Corey Mock failed to make weight, Burns was visibly irked.
“Going into my match I was a little frustrated,” Burns said. “So I wanted to go out there and punish the guy — take my anger out on him pretty much.
“I feel like I’m pretty strong so I just wanted to go out there and use my strength and just pretty much muscle the guy. I saw an opportunity and I took it, and the result was a pin.”
C.D. Mock jokingly said he would take credit for Burns’ pin.
“I’m gonna say that me pissing him off and making him (fight in a heavier weight class) caused him to just wanna toss that guy,” he said.
Ferguson’s triumph against Duke’s Diego Bencomo was yet another entertaining moment in Monday’s meet.
The bout went back and forth for most of the six minutes, with the two wrestlers trading points on takedowns, escapes and reversals. Ferguson ultimately prevailed, taking the decision 12-8.
“It felt great. We’re a young team. We’re not having as much success as we want, but, you know, every little win helps,” Ferguson said.
Coming into the meet, the Tar Heels were 0-7 in dual contests, but each of those losses came at the hands of ranked opponents. Duke, on the other hand, had only wrestled in one dual meet, a 28-14 loss to The Citadel.
C.D. Mock said his team’s wrestling experience against some of the country’s top programs was an advantage against the Blue Devils.
“We had seven duals before (Monday’s meet), but when I made that schedule I didn’t know that five of them were gonna be in the top 15 in the country,” he said. “But I think the good part of that is that we’ve wrestled … some really good teams.
“Hopefully that will give them a little confidence going against these teams we are capable of competing with.”
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