Dominant performances from the Tar Heels’ star wrestlers and a few new faces propelled No. 13 North Carolina (2-0, 1-0 ACC) to a 29-9 rout of conference rival Duke (0-2, 0-2) in its first ACC competition of the season.
The team score remained close throughout the early matches, as UNC and Duke each won two of the first four. First-year Sonny Santiago’s 6-4 overtime win, his first collegiate victory, gave the Tar Heels a 10-6 lead and proved to be a pivotal turning point. After Santiago's win, UNC won five straight individual matches and scored 22 unanswered points.
“I knew that if I worked to win, I could end it there,” Santiago said. “He was a pretty lanky guy, so my plan was to get his feet together so I could make sure he fell over like a tree, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Tar Heels led 29-6 before Aydin Guttridge lost a quadruple-overtime match to Jonah Niesenbaum, and ended up taking the dual meet, 29-9.
Who stood out:
Kennedy Monday and Zach Sherman, the No. 10 wrestlers in the nation in their respective weight divisions, dominated their opponents. Sherman defeated redshirt first-year Patrick Rowland 11-1, giving the Tar Heels four team points. Monday tallied four takedowns in the first period of an impressive 22-7 rout of Evan Carter. Monday’s victory added five points to UNC’s team score.
First-years Tim Decatur, Santiago and Gavin Kane additionally made key contributions by winning their matches and filling in for starters that were either injured or sidelined by COVID-19.
“I thought they overcame a little bit of adversity, being thrown in there and not expecting to,” head coach Coleman Scott said. “But they stepped up, they wrestled hard and did what they were supposed to do.”
When was it decided:
Duke’s Jack Wimmer medically forfeited in the 184-pound match to give North Carolina its fourth consecutive individual win. Wimmer’s forfeit added six points to UNC’s team score and extended the Tar Heels lead to 25-6, putting the match firmly out of reach for the Blue Devils.
Why does it matter:
Aside from maintaining a perfect record on the season and moving to 1-0 in ACC competition, the Tar Heels win demonstrated their depth and top-tier talent. Three of six fiest-years that filled in for starters won their matches, and the other three narrowly lost.
UNC’s depth, however, wasn’t the only bright spot on display for the Tar Heels. The performances of star wrestlers Monday, Sherman and No. 15 Clay Lautt showed why these individuals are ranked so high nationally within their respective weight classes.
With top-tier starters and legitimate depth supporting them, the Tar Heels showed that they’re poised to repeat last season’s success and establish themselves as an elite team in the ACC.
When do they play next:
UNC will play host to ACC rival No. 4 N.C. State on Friday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m.
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