When members of the North Carolina wrestling team opened the Hokie Duals Sunday against Big Ten opponent No. 20 Wisconsin, they weren’t supposed to win.
But they did — 24-21 .
After dropping two more matches against Old Dominion and Hofstra in the ensuing rounds, the Tar Heels ended the day, and started their season, 1-2
“It was certainly less than spectacular,” said coach C.D. Mock .
“But we didn’t expect it to be spectacular.”
As the tightly-knotted match with Wisconsin came to its last few bouts, junior Frank Abbondanza of the 197-pound weight class walked onto the mat to face Wisconsin wrestler and North Carolina native Timmy McCall.
“He’s a tough kid. He was a lot bigger than I was,” Abbondanza said. “I just couldn’t let him dictate the pace of the match.”
Abbondanza said he knew McCall was going to shoot early and often, and the only way to win was to force him into a state of fatigue.
Keeping his body positioned well, Abbondanza dodged McCall’s attempts and once he had him tired enough, Abbondanza got to work.
Putting McCall in uncomfortable positions, Abbondanza beat the tired Badger and sealed the victory for the Tar Heels.
Abbondanza attributed the win to the mental aspect of the sport.
“If you’re mentally out in wrestling you’re not going to do well,” he said. “You’ve got to keep going in thinking you’re the best in the country.”
Mock said he didn’t know how exactly his team was able to overcome its toughest opponent of the day with Wisconsin yet still manage to fall short against its other two opponents.
But he said the way Old Dominion and Hofstra matched up against UNC from a personnel standpoint could have made a difference.
“I wish I knew… There’s no rhyme or reason to that,” Mock said. “If I knew why that happened, I’d be a much better coach.”
As Mock and his team look back at film after a day filled with mixed emotions in Blacksburg, they’ll try to find out how exactly they pulled off the upset.
“We wrestled much better against Wisconsin than we did against the other two teams,” Mock said. “Frankly, with the lineup we had, that’s not a team we should be beating.”
But on Sunday that’s just what happened.
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