The family affair jump-started UNC’s 24-13 victory as the Tar Heels bedeviled Duke at Card Gymnasium in Durham.
The win was UNC’s ninth straight against Duke, a streak that stretches back to coach C.D. Mock’s second year as head coach in 2005.
Now, a win against an archrival remains just as sweet – Mock still “loves beating Duke.”
“I don’t feel like (Duke) wrestled us real well,” Mock said. “I feel like they were hanging on to a lot of the guys and keeping them from wrestling. It’s hard to wrestle with guys like that sometimes.”
Not if it ends with a win, though.
“I’m happy with it,” Mock said.
UNC sprinted ahead to a 7-0 lead on the strength of Eitel’s win and a four-point decision by sophomore Alex Utley.
But Duke soon grabbed the momentum with two straight wins and whipped its fans into a frenzy after Brian Self bested UNC’s Jake Barnhart in the heavyweight bout to knot the score at 7-7.
As freshman sensation Nathan Kraisser crouched into his opening stance, he knew he had to silence the throngs of royal blue-clad fans.
“I thought it was up to me to get the momentum back,” Kraisser said.
He did exactly that — and then some. He pinned his opponent and earned an automatic six-point win, giving UNC a 13-7 lead and lowering the volume at Card Gymnasium to a concerned murmur.
“Once I had him on his back, I wanted to keep him there and end the match,” Kraisser said.
Kraisser believes his team is warming to the task of stiffer competition as the conference championships loom.
“Everyone’s starting to wrestle smarter — not at their best yet, but they’re starting to wrestle smarter,” Kraisser said.
Eitel shared his coach’s joy in defeating the Blue Devils, but he said that Tuesday’s win takes a backseat to gearing up for the ACC Championships March 9 in Maryland.
“It’s still a progression leading up to the ACCs,” Eitel said. “Of course we want to win these matches, but they’re all subsidiary to the big goal that we’re trying to accomplish.”
That big goal, for one night, intersected with family ties — a momentary collision of heart and athletic instincts.
In a text message to his brother Tuesday morning, Eitel claimed their bond would remain unbreakable.
“‘I love you, and at the end of the day … It’s just a match,’” Eitel’s message read.
“It sucks it has to happen, but it is what it is. And nothing is going to change after the match.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.