After a last-minute cancellation of its would-be opening dual meet against Campbell, the No. 14 North Carolina wrestling team put together an impressive display against Gardner-Webb on Sunday in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels won 45-0 in their season-opening match, showcasing a combination of talent and energy from new and experienced wrestlers alike. After last season was cut short when the NCAA Championships were canceled due to COVID-19, this year's UNC group is primed to continue rising to the level of a national competitor.
“I thought our guys had a lot of energy and great effort today,” head coach Coleman Scott said. “I told the guys earlier, ‘Let’s kick the season off the way we want to start it.’”
First-year Julian Tagg opened the meet in North Carolina’s first match of the afternoon with a decision win. Redshirt sophomore Joe Heilmann and redshirt junior Zach Sherman then extended the Tar Heels' lead to 13-0. After Tagg's win, the Tar Heels won their next six matches by either technical fall or pin.
“It felt good finally being in a Tar Heel singlet and being able to wrestle with my teammates,” Tagg said.
Scott said the way his younger wrestlers, like Tagg, stepped up to compete on Sunday provided a glimpse at the young talent UNC has to work with this season.
As the rounds continued through the afternoon, it became clear North Carolina was holding nothing back against the Runnin' Bulldogs. Despite the lead, the Tar Heels remained sharp and dominant throughout every bout.
“First match of the year we just kind of wanted to kick the dust off because it’s been a while since we competed last,” redshirt junior Austin O’Connor said.
While all of North Carolina’s wrestlers performed well in the season opener, the veterans demonstrated their exceptional talent on the mat and set the tone throughout the meet.