After a day full of matches and hours of anxiously waiting, the time had finally come for three North Carolina wrestlers to compete in their respective weight classes for the ACC Wrestling Championship.
Redshirt senior Troy Heilmann won the ACC championship in the 149-pound class and redshirt senior Ethan Ramos placed first in the 174-pound class. However, Cory Daniel fell short of the championship in the 285-pound class after losing an early lead, finishing in second place.
The first Tar Heel to wrestle in the finals was Heilmann. The score was tied at one with 30 seconds remaining. With under 15 seconds remaining in the bout, Heilmann went for his opponent, Ryan Blees, and grabbed his leg for two points. The few seconds remaining ran off the clock and Heilmann became the 2018 champion of his weight class, avenging his only ACC loss of the season.
“It feels awesome,” Heilmann said. “I had my eyes on this all year. Last year I lost in the finals, so ever since then I’ve been gunning for it. And it’s been a long season. The guy beat me, so that made tonight icing on the cake, being able to get revenge on him.”
He secured his third career NCAA Championship appearance en route to his first ACC title. This season his goal is to win it all, and he is hoping that a new mindset will help him accomplish that.
“This time I feel like I’m going with the biggest purpose I’ve had,” Heilmann said. “It’s been fun to go the past two years, and I think I had the wrong mindset. Now, I’m going there for a reason, going there to get on the podium.”
Ramos was the next Tar Heel wrestler to battle for an ACC title. The bout was quickly out of hand as he cruised to a 10-6 victory over Virginia Tech's Hunter Bolen. Saturday’s victory marked Ramos’ second career ACC title. The senior has qualified for the NCAA Championships in all four years at UNC. Similarly to Heilmann, Ramos also avenged an ACC regular season loss in the final.
“The only strategy I had was being heavier on the head to begin with,” Ramos said. “Being patient with my shots. I think the first time I went out trying to take a shot that was really hard in the beginning. And my mind was racing a little too much, so I made little mistakes.”
A seasoned veteran in the NCAA Championships, Ramos is hoping to learn from his past mistakes and use them to his advantage.
“One year it was injuries,” Ramos said. “One year I think I changed my game plan of how I was wrestling. So this year, I’ve been focused on just doing what I’m good at, and not trying to make up moves or do too much.”
The final bout of the weekend was the 285-pound class final between Daniel and No. 3 Jacob Kasper who represented Duke. Daniel got out to an early lead with a takedown, but that lead gradually disappeared and Kasper won 8-4. Toward the end of the bout, Daniel’s frustration began to show. When the final buzzer sounded, Daniel shoved Kasper. North Carolina head coach Coleman Scott did not fault his wrestler for doing so.
“The kid’s holding our (guy's) head down and straddles our (guy's) head,” Scott said. “For another grown man to do that to you, it’s sort of hard for me. I don’t like that he pushed him, but I don’t want him to just docile down to that.”
The end of the night may have been disappointing for Scott and the Tar Heels, but the team had plenty of good moments on Saturday. In fact, seven of North Carolina’s nine wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships.
“Hit or miss,” Scott said. “I thought some good. I don’t like what happened at the end there — it left a sour taste in my mouth. Not a bad weekend, could’ve been better.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.