Wrestling climbs back from early deficit to end with a 3-0 weekend
The North Carolina wrestling team was one bout in to Saturday's match against Navy, and the Tar Heels were already facing what would be the largest deficit of the weekend.
But after UNC's Alex Rinaldi was pinned to start the weekend in a 6-0 hole, the Tar Heels used a 10-match winning streak over two duals to kickstart a 3-0 weekend.
UNC defeated Navy 27-6 on Friday, sparking 20-13 and 29-6 victories over Rider and George Mason on Saturday.
“We really didn’t look back after we won our first few,” Assistant Coach Coleman Scott said.
Redshirt sophomore Joey Ward set the tone early with a strong return to play. Ward had not wrestled in two weeks after being rushed to the hospital after the Pittsburgh Duals on Jan. 11.
After having a tooth examined, what Ward thought was a loose tooth was actually cracked entirely in half. The tooth was not salvageable and Ward missed a week of practice as a result.
“It wouldn’t have bothered me at all while I was wrestling, but the staff wanted to keep an eye on me to make sure I got healthy,” Ward said.
Injury didn’t slow Ward down as he won his match by a convincing 8-1 score and tied up the dual at six. UNC would not give up another team point for the rest of the match.
Saturday’s dual set the stage for a match that redshirt freshman Ethan Ramos will look back on for years to come.
Ramos took down Navy’s captain, No. 13 Peyton Walsh, by a convincing margin of 12-5 in a match that fueled the team.
"I didn't prepare for that match any differently," Ramos said. "I just tried to wrestle hard, and I think it worked out alright."
Ramos, who is ranked No. 20 in the nation, jumped out to the lead early, scoring six quick points in the first period. He held off Walsh’s comeback to score a huge win for him and his team despite UNC already holding a lead.
“If ever there was a defining moment in the match — not that we needed a turning point — it was Ethan at 165," Scott said. "Ethan beat their stud. To beat their captain the way he did just completely deflated their team.”
Ward, Ramos and the rest of the Tar Heels continued their streak into the next two duals against Rider and George Mason.
“With a strong win like the Navy dual, it can be very disappointing if you can’t take that momentum with you,” Scott said, “But we kept our foot on the gas pedal and finished strong.”
The Tar Heels knew that the remaining duals would be more difficult, but they still scored big and didn't drop a match until the second match on Sunday.
“Looking at it on paper, we probably weren’t favored against Rider.” Scott said, “But winning is contagious, and a lot of fun too.”
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