BY Kevin Mercer
UNC wrestling excels in first weekend of competition
It’s not often that a North Carolina wrestler who is being redshirted for the season steals the show on the first weekend of the season.
Evan Henderson, a senior redshirting this year, placed second in the Bill Farrell International Open, a prestigious tournament held in New York. He was not officially affiliated with UNC in the tournament. Jason Chamberlain, a redshirt senior from Boise State, eventually beat Henderson in the finals of the 143-pound bout.
“It was just to get good experience and … get better at my discipline,” Henderson said. “I had fun and that was the main point of the thing.”
Coach C.D. Mock was more effusive in his praise of Henderson.
“He picked up a sponsor — he wrestled that well,” Mock said. “It’s a huge accomplishment…. It’s a huge thing in the wrestling world. We kind of made our mark, and we haven’t done that in a long time.”
Henderson said he just tried not to think too much or become intimidated by the level of competition while he was wrestling his way to a second-place finish.
“(The results of the invitational) told me that I can wrestle with these guys, with the top guys,” he said. “It was my first international tournament and I went out and tried to kick butt.”
Meanwhile, Henderson’s teammates were busy competing in the Hokie Open, a day-long tournament held at Virginia Tech. It was the first competition of the wrestling season.
Senior Alex Utley and sophomore Ethan Ramos were both champions in the 184-pound and 165-pound weight classes, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Joey Ward and redshirt junior John Michael Staudenmayer also performed well, both placing second in their weight classes.
“Generally, I’m very pleased at the level of competition and the way our guys competed,” Mock said. “I thought all the guys competed pretty well.”
Despite strong performances from many members of the team, Mock still said that there was room to improve.
“We are not nearly as aggressive as we need to be,” he said. “We’ve worked way too hard on our conditioning to be standing around.
“I’d rather have a guy go out and lose by being too aggressive than have him win by a point because he didn’t do anything.”
Mock mentioned Ramos as someone who wrestles aggressively every time he steps onto the mat.
“I didn’t think about it at all really,” Ramos said. “That’s just naturally how I wrestle.”
With a competitive Stanford match coming up in California Saturday, Mock hopes his Tar Heels will make the necessary adjustments. Nonetheless, Mock said that he thought the Hokie Open prepared the team well.
“It’s a good way for us to start our season, because it’s not a killer tournament … but it’s a good way to start the year off,” he said.
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