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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 8 UNC wrestling survives upset scare against UVa

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UNC's redshirt sophomore Jaime Hernandez wrestles Pittsburgh redshirt sophomore Micky Phillippi in Carmichael Arena on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. North Carolina beat No. 9 Pittsburg 22-14.

The No. 8 North Carolina wrestling team narrowly defeated Virginia 19-18 on Friday in Charlottesville. Bonus points were crucial for both teams as the Tar Heels endured a late UVa push to secure the close victory in the last bout of the dual.

What happened?

UNC started fast and jumped out to an early 10-0 lead with wins from No. 12 Zach Sherman and No. 3 Austin O'Connor in the 140- and 149-pound weight classes, respectively. Both athletes racked up bonus points for the Tar Heels. Sherman earned an 11-3 major decision to add four points to the UNC team score, while O'Connor won his bout with a pin early in the second period, giving the Tar Heels six points.

The Cavaliers responded in the third bout of the night with a victory from Justin McCoy against North Carolina's No. 16 A.C. Headlee at 157 pounds. The bout remained close throughout but McCoy secured his 3-2 win with an escape in the third period. Virginia continued their momentum into the 165-pound bout, where Cam Coy picked up a 6-3 victory over Sawyer Davidson.

UNC's Clay Lautt stifled the Cavalier comeback with a 3-1 decision over Victory Marcelli in the 174-pound bout. Lautt scored first with a six-second escape in the second period and secured his 3-1 victory with a takedown late in the third.

Virginia quickly responded in the 184-pound bout with a 12-4 major decision from Michael Battista over Joey Mazzara. Battista secured the win with a strong finish scoring ten of his 12 points in the third period. The Cavaliers continued their comeback with a victory from No. 8 Jay Aiello over Brandon Whitman in the 197 weight-class. The dual was now tied at 13, and the Tar Heels were on upset watch.

North Carolina again responded to the Cavalier surge with a win from Andrew Gunning over UVa's Robert Scherer. Gunning locked down the 6-2 win in the 285-pound weight class allowing the Tar Heels to regain a 16-13 lead.

But the Cavaliers refused to go away. No. 2 Jack Mueller piled on points during his 19-1 tech-fall victory over UNC's Joey Melendez, which racked up five Cavalier bonus points and gave UVa its first lead of the night. 

In the final and deciding 133-pound bout, North Carolina's Jaime Hernandez defeated Louie Hayes to clinch the Tar Heel victory. Hernandez jumped to an early 4-1 lead and sealed the deal on an eventual 8-5 decision.

Who stood out?

O'Connor's pin was crucial to North Carolina's victory. O'Connor ultimately ended his bout early with an athletic pin just 40 seconds into the second period.

Hernandez's victory in the final bout was also essential to the Tar Heel victory. Hernandez secured an 8-5 decision with two early takedowns in the first period. Ensuring Hayes was never able to overcome the early deficit.

When was it decided?

The dual wasn't decided until the very last bout when Hernandez gave North Carolina the win. However, bonus points were the ultimate decider in this dual-meet with both teams winning five bouts each.

Mueller gave UVa the necessary bonus points to hang around with a 19-1 tech fall decision in the 125-pound weight class but the Tar Heels were able to hold off the Cavalier push with Hernandez securing a win in the final bout of the night.  

Why does it matter?

UNC secured another victory in the last ACC dual-meet of an impressive season that brought the North Carolina wrestling program to national prominence. The Tar Heels will hope to carry that success into post-season competition with a number of wrestlers in position to be competitive for national titles.

When do they play next?

North Carolina will return to the mat Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Carmichael Arena against Arizona State, where it will look to win its final dual meet of the season.

@MaryMacPorter1

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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