All of the momentum was going in North Carolina's favor over halfway through the dual before the Mountaineers flipped the script. Starting with the 285-pound bout, App State rattled off three straight victories to cut the Tar Heels' lead to 15-13 heading into the final match.
It all came down to the 141-pound bout, featuring UNC redshirt sophomore Zach Sherman and App State’s Bradley Irwin in a winner-take-all match.
“You never want your teammates to lose," Sherman said. "But that kinda puts you in a position where you learn a lot about yourself and the pressure’s either good or bad. Some people, it crushes them like a soda can. But I like to think of it as, pressure makes diamonds.”
Sherman shined in a 14-4 major decision victory to secure the team win for the Tar Heels, but it wasn’t just his win that stood out. It was also an interaction between Sherman and his head coach.
Sherman had the team's victory all but guaranteed for UNC with a commanding 10-3 lead in the third period and the advantage in the team score. Then, from the sideline, Sherman heard words of encouragement:
“We gotta have one. Don’t be complacent.”
It was Scott, pushing Sherman to earn another takedown. Sherman needed to score again to earn a major decision, which had no impact on who won the meet.
Still, the redshirt sophomore responded and went on to get two more takedowns in the final moments of the bout.
“Complacency is what kills,” Sherman said. “You can’t be satisfied with scoring a certain amount of points, you always gotta want to get more and stay on the offensive and that can make you better too.”
If North Carolina had been complacent, the Tar Heels might have dropped this matchup that App State wanted so badly. But early on, it looked like UNC would run away with the meet.
The Tar Heels were dominant through the first six bouts, holding a 15-4 lead after rattling off five straight victories by decision that was highlighted by another statement win from redshirt senior A.C. Headlee in the 157-pound bout.
“He’s showed me and himself and he can compete with anybody in the country,” Scott said. “It’s about staying consistent each and every day that you step out there — in his training and in his attitude and everything. I think he’s doing really well with that and it’s showing.”
Headlee narrowly defeated No. 13 Matt Zovistoski, 3-2, for his second victory over a nationally-ranked wrestler this season. But this one was personal for Headlee, just like the dual was for the Mountaineers.
“If I remember correctly," Headlee said, "My first match ever was here at home against App State and I think I lost my first match against an App State wrestler. Every single time I’ve had to wrestle an App State kid, I know they’re gonna come looking for a dog fight...But all that means is that we’ve just gotta fight right back.”
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