Rolling over to the 125-pound weight class, first-year Joe Heilmann seemed to have been taking notes on Daniel’s strategy. In much the same fashion as Daniel, Heilmann racked up a 22-6 tech fall win midway through the third period, seemingly able to get two takedown points on command. The 10 team points from the two wrestlers gave UNC a 14-6 lead.
No. 20 redshirt senior Gary Wayne Harding was even more efficient with first-year Arien Leigh, pinning him midway through the second period to give UNC a commanding 20-6 lead. A buzzer-beater takedown at 141 pounds gave Duke’s Josh Finesilver a 12-10 comeback win over A.C. Headlee, setting up an important matchup between Duke’s No. 7 Mitch Finesilver and UNC’s No. 4 Austin O’Connor.
The top-10 duo had wrestled twice this season already — splitting the matches — with neither wrestler recording more than three points in either bout. Heading into the third period on Friday, O’Connor was down 3-1 before getting a hard fought escape to come back within one point with 1:15 remaining. The pair traded takedowns, but a false start with six seconds left to go cost O’Connor the upright position in the 6-4 loss to fall to 28-4 on the season.
The win was not enough to overcome UNC's mid-match dominance. Josh McClure scored a 10-5 win over Benjamin Anderson to give UNC a 23-12 lead and clinch the ACC title. Despite suffering a loss in the final bout, UNC left Cameron Indoor with a 23-16 win.
Who stood out
The seniors dominated. Ness, Daniel and Harding all posted extra point victories in their bouts, giving UNC an early lead that Duke was unable to surmount. In their final dual match of their careers, all three wrestlers delivered the team victory.
When was it decided:
Heading into the final two bouts, UNC held a 20-12 lead. A single victory would clinch the team win for the Tar Heels. McClure delivered, building up a 6-1 lead after two periods and easily hanging on for a 10-5 win that had the Tar Heels celebrating in the locker room with a conference title in their final match.
Why does it matter:
The win notched UNC a share of the regular-season ACC title — its first since 2002. Facing a challenging schedule, the Tar Heels posted a 12-7 record. It is their most victories since the 2015-16 season.
With N.C. State beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on a tiebreaker just moments after the Tar Heels' win, the Wolfpack won the other share of the ACC title.
Looking for momentum heading into the postseason, the Tar Heels got it in their final match of the season against rival Duke. It’s a familiar feeling — UNC now leads the all-time series 69-25.
Where do they play next:
UNC will be in Blacksburg, Va., for the ACC Championship on March 9th.
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