North Carolina sophomore Evan Henderson threw his arms in the air, sending the crowd into frenzy.
Henderson, ranked sixth in the nation in the 141-pound weight class, had just beaten No. 7 Ugi Khishignyam of the Citadel Bulldogs 3-1 in a decisive overtime win — just one win on the way to UNC’s 27-9 victory.
Carmichael Arena roared the loudest it had all Sunday afternoon, and for the Tar Heels, it was the defining moment of the Carolina Duals.
“That was a big match for me,” Henderson said. “I beat their star and we completely dominated that whole team.”
The Citadel coaches screamed at the referee, disagreeing with the call, but it was to no avail.
The momentum had been captured for the rest of the day.
After Henderson’s win, UNC led 13-0.
“That was a huge win for Henderson today,” coach C.D. Mock said. “Evan wrestled him (Khishignyam) very smart, and, in my view, dominated him.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the Tar Heels defeated Campbell 26-19, which was a narrower margin than what actually existed between the two teams.
Freshman Nathan Kraisser, No. 7 in the 125-pound weight class, set the tone for the dual by pinning his opponent and earning UNC a quick six points and improving his individual season record to 29-4. He later added another win to move to 30-4 on the season.
“I’m not trying to go out there and just win, I’m trying to score as many points as possible,” Kraisser said.
His early wins make a difference for the Tar Heels, and he said he knows it.
“I think it really gets our momentum going, and that momentum is a big part of the chemistry of the team,” Kraisser said.
Mock said he liked having Kraisser begin the meets because of the energy he brings to the team.
“If he loses it’s going to be because he runs out of time, not because somebody beats him,” Mock said.
Kraisser leads a team of mostly underclassmen, including the fiery Henderson. Sandwiched in between their weight classes is 133-pound freshman Joey Ward.
Ward, No. 19 in his weight class, experienced a scary moment Sunday. He went unconscious after being pinned early on in his first bout against Tanner Bidelspach of Campbell. As he was helped off the mat, it seemed his day was over.
But he returned to face Aaron Hansen of The Citadel just two hours later and pinned him for six points for UNC within the first three minutes of the bout.
While this is one of the youngest teams Mock has ever coached, he said he believes in his young stars and their future as a squad.
“It was looking like it was going to be a really tough year, but the young guys have stepped up,” Mock said. “It won’t be long before UNC will be back in the top of the ACC.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.