Junior Evan Henderson entered the final round of Sunday’s Wolfpack Open in Raleigh staring down a familiar foe.
Just one week ago, Henderson faced off against Chris Mecate from Old Dominion in the Hokie Duals, and he came out with a 5-1 victory.
Sunday’s match was no different, as Henderson won 4-2, and joined redshirt sophomore Christian Barber and junior Alex Utley as champions atop the podium in their respective weight classes.
Henderson picked up a key near fall late in the match that put him up by two points. Still on top, Henderson was confident that he had secured the victory.
“I know I’m the best in the country on top,” he said. “So when I was on top in that last period and I turned him, I said, ‘You ain’t getting out of this, man.’”
UNC assistant coach Cary Kolat said Henderson was able to come out with the win because he was loose early on and stayed on the offensive throughout the match.
“I never felt like he was in danger,” Kolat said. “He was the most offensive guy in the bout.”
UNC left the Wolfpack Open with first place finishes in the 141 pound, 149 pound and 184 pound weight classes. The Tar Heels also placed two wrestlers in fourth and two wrestlers in fifth.
Kolat said while UNC started out slow, they finished the day much stronger than they started it.
“Early in the season these guys have got to get going in the morning rounds,” Kolat said. “Toward the end of the tournament they started to wake up a little bit more.”
Henderson wasn’t the only UNC wrestler facing off with an opponent for the second time this season. Utley was pitted against Jack Dechow, also from Old Dominion, in the championship round. Last week, Utley lost to Dechow by a score of 3-2. Sunday he was determined to change that.
And he would. After time expired with the score tied, Utley would get the win with a takedown in sudden victory overtime.
Kolat said that being mentally focused was what let Utley avenge last week’s loss, and take the top spot on the podium Sunday.
The last of UNC’s first place finishers, Barber, didn’t wrestle in the Hokie Duals last Sunday. Kolat said Barber’s in a battle to earn a spot in the starting lineup at the 149 pound weight class, and he certainly helped his cause by winning that weight class in the Wolfpack Open.
“Christian did a really good job,” Kolat said. “He wrestled hard and got some wins over some guys who were pretty impressive.”
UNC’s three champions were the most of any team in the tournament. While that might wow spectators, Henderson said that the Tar Heels still have a lot of improving to do. And with Henderson joined by two teammates at the top of the podium, UNC is starting from a good place.
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