North Carolina wrestling had a historic season a year ago, capped by its best NCAA finish since 1995 and led by two All-American performances at the NCAA Championship. Hot off the first winning ACC season under head coach Coleman Scott, the Tar Heels are sticking to the strategy that worked for them last season by testing themselves early and often in the regular season.
Of the 15 teams on UNC's schedule, only its season opener at Chattanooga pits the Tar Heels against a team that was not ranked or receiving votes in either the USA Today Coaches Poll or the Mid Major Top 20.
A season ago, the Tar Heels wrestled against 12 teams that finished inside the top-25 en route to auto-qualifying seven wrestlers for the national championship, building on the five from the year before. The Tar Heels finished 20th at the NCAA championship as a team.
This year, UNC brings back two nationally ranked redshirt seniors with All-AmericanChip Ness, ranked preseason No. 6 at 184 pounds, and preseason No. 14 heavyweight Cory Daniel. Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Monday is ranked No. 9 at 157 pounds, and redshirt first-year Austin O’Connor was the No. 15 ranked 149-pounder in the preseason.
The Tar Heels showed their early season form with eight wrestlers who placed at the Hokie Open to start this season. Of those eight, four of them finished runner-up, including Daniel and Monday.Redshirt junior A.C. Headlee also finished runner-up at 141 pounds and redshirt sophomore Devin Kane did the same at 174 pounds. The Tar Heels also had an individual champion at 197 pounds in Brandon Whitman, though the first-year wrestled unattached.