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The Daily Tar Heel

O'Connor leads UNC wrestling in Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

Cory Daniel wrestling

UNC redshirt senior Cory Daniel placed second in the heavyweight class at the ACC Championship last season on March 3 at Carmichael Arena.

The undefeated North Carolina wrestling team participated in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday and Saturday, with three Tar Heels making it to the podiums.

What happened?

The tournament commenced on Friday, bringing 42 teams from across the country to Las Vegas for one of the nation’s top invitational tournaments.

On Friday, the Tar Heels were propelled to the semi-finals by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Monday (157 pounds) and redshirt senior Cory Daniel (285 pounds).

Monday won a challenging match against Air Force, crushed Rutgers in the quarterfinals and moved on to the semifinals for the 157 pound category.

Ending up with an 8-6 win over Nebraska, Daniel progressed to the quarterfinals against Oklahoma, in which he accomplished a 3-0 win to move onto the semi-finals.

Redshirt junior A.C. Headlee (141 pounds), redshirt first-year Austin O’Connor (149 pounds), redshirt senior Chip Ness (184 pounds ) and redshirt sophomore Devin Kane (174 pounds) moved on in the tournament as well before falling in the consolation bracket.

Finishing the tournament on Saturday, O’Connor finished in third place in the 149 pound weight class. Daniel received fifth place for the 285 pound weight class and Monday placed sixth in the 157 pound weight class.

Who stood out?

O’Connor stood out the most in the tournament for UNC in the 149 pound weight class with a 3-1 win over Duke and a medical forfeit over Clarion University. The medical win over Clarion gave O’Connor the third place win in the149 weight class for the tournament. O’Connor’s opponent for the third place match appeared to have suffered an arm injury.

He contributes the win to his improved leg attacks and pressuring on his feet. However, O’Connor recognizes that he needs to work on increasing the frequency of his leg attacks.

“I thought I did a better job of pressuring them and on top I did a lot better job of riding, even though the second period was pretty short due to his injury," O'Connor said. "but I felt like I was real tough and kind of clingy on top."

O’Connor said he’s just focusing on this year for now, but that he has high hopes for his career.

“I think I have a good shot of going after an NCAA title as a freshman already,” O’Connor said.

When was it decided?

North Carolina finished 11th place overall. A big contributor to the Tar Heels securing tenth place was the third place win by O’Connor. 

Why does it matter?

The tournament was important for the Tar Heels because it showed what they were doing good at and what they needed to improve on. 

North Carolina head coach Coleman Scott said it is extremely important for his players to be ready to wrestle and that they need to not take the easy way out.

“We won some matches, but we also had a lot that I think that we could’ve done better," Scott said. "We lost too many close matches, you know there was just walking away today with a little sour taste in my mouth, but for the most part we’re getting better. But it’s early in the year and we just gotta make some adjustments.” 

When do they play next?

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The Tar Heels host their first home match of the season against Nebraska on Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

@markburnett1234

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com