Gunning would go on to win in a 13-4 major decision, giving North Carolina an important extra point and a 4-3 lead as the dual moved to lower weight classes.
The ensuing three rounds saw the two schools exchange leads, with first-year Timothy Decatur losing in a tech fall that gave the Tigers an 8-4 lead. The Tar Heels did not lose their stride, however, coming back with two straight wins and setting up No. 2 Austin O’Connor, a redshirt sophomore, with an 11-8 lead.
O’Connor maintained his near perfect season record against No. 15 Mike D’Angelo. O’Connor came out of the gates firing, securing a 6-point pin to stretch North Carolina’s lead to a commanding 17-8.
“I thought it was important to really come in and get our team motivated, kind of come after this kid,” O’Connor said. “I got two takedowns to start with, kind of got in his head and got the fall.”
With a 17-8 lead, the final score would never again be in doubt. The Tar Heels went on to win three of the four remaining matches, securing a dominant 14-point victory and making up for a 23-16 loss to the Tigers last year.
“We came out here ready to fight and that’s what we did," Gunning said. "We put up points on the board and avenged a very hard loss.”
Last season, North Carolina earned a share of the ACC title for the first time since 2002. This year, facing a difficult non-conference schedule, UNC has continued to trend upward toward national prominence.
“We’ve been training hard as a team, we’ve seen a lot of tough competition so far,” O’Connor said. “We’re starting to get there to show teams who we are.”
It's all a part of Scott's strategy when scheduling opponents: challenge his team early and often to prepare for ACC play.
"Coleman knows what he's doing, and he's doing this for a reason," Gunning said. "Our schedule's rigorous for a reason...there's a method to his madness."
Despite this year's success, Scott is not content to slow down his team's progress any time soon. He said that while the season is still young, and the match wasn't a flawless one, the Tar Heels are trending upward.
“Was it our best? No,” Scott said. “But I thought the guys fought hard and won crucial matches, so it was great to see. That’s what we’ve been striving towards.”
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