Last weekend, North Carolina freshman 125-pounder Nathan Kraisser opened UNC’s dual meets against then-No. 11 Virginia and then-No. 9 Virginia Tech with upsets in consecutive days.
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, his success couldn’t extend into the upper weight classes. UNC dropped both bouts, including a match against Virginia Tech in which the Tar Heels lost eight straight matches in the 10-meet event.
But Kraisser sent a message to a young UNC squad that the Tar Heels will need to heed as they prepare to send only freshmen and sophomores to the mat against Navy and Maryland this weekend.
“It showed that rankings don’t mean anything,” Kraisser said. “You can go out there and wrestle someone ranked ahead of you and still beat him.”
Today, the Tar Heels will wrestle in Annapolis, Md., and on Saturday, in College Park, Md.
The Tar Heels continue to fight through their dual meet schedule with a roster that coach C.D. Mock admits isn’t deep enough.
Redshirt sophomore Tanner Eitel, a transfer from Virginia Tech who missed a year due to injury, shocked Virginia’s Jon Fausey last weekend, beating the then-No. 14 174-pounder 12-10.
This week, Eitel will need to summon all he has just to step on the mat.
Eitel is fighting flu-like symptoms, but he’s the only wrestler in his weight class traveling with the team.
“He knows he’s got to wrestle because we don’t have anyone else there,” Mock said. “He’s on board … It’s really just a matter of making up your mind that you’re going to make your body go for seven minutes.”
Antonio Giorgio, a 197-pounder, is not ready to return from a concussion he suffered in December, and undersized sophomore Frank Abbond?anza will continue to take his place.
Abbondanza, who weighs about 184 pounds and wrestles in the 197-pound division, struggled in last week’s bout against Virginia’s Zach Nye, as the match ended in a 15-0 technical fall.
Sophomore 141-pounder Evan Henderson said the team stands behind Abbond?anza, fighting for him to squeeze out points against larger opponents.
“Coming from a teammate’s standpoint, I can’t ask anything more of Frank,” Henderson said. “We’re not trying to throw him under the bus, but he’s had to take one for the team.”
The Tar Heels will also be without their usual starters at 133 pounds and 157 pounds, but Mock said Pat Owens and Chris Mears, who will fill those spots, are more than capable of winning.
With a mix-and-match roster, the burden on No. 8 Kraisser and No. 7 Henderson is even greater, but Mock believes that the more he expects out of his top wrestlers, the more they will give him.
“Unfortunately we have some holes, and when you’ve got some holes in your lineup it means that some of the other guys have to put the pressure on,” Mock said.
“They’ve got to score some points. They can’t just be satisfied with three-point win, and when you’re asking freshmen and sophomores to do that you’re asking a lot, but they’re obviously fully capable.”
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