The No. 14 North Carolina wrestling team (4-2, 2-2 ACC) completed its weekend in Pennsylvania with a 26-6 win against No. 25 Lehigh (3-3, 2-1 EIWA) on Saturday night on the road, extending its top-25 winning streak to two straight meets.
After a 23-12 Friday night win over No. 15 Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels looked to end their trip to the Keystone State on a high note against the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh got off to a good start before facing North Carolina, as it had beaten the Army Black Knights earlier in the afternoon, and had maintained itself as a top-25 program throughout the year.
The first match of the day, a 125-pound bout between Lehigh’s Jaret Lane and UNC’s Will Guida, went in favor of the home team, putting the Mountain Hawks up 3-0. North Carolina got back even after UNC redshirt sophomore Joe Heilmann took down Lehigh's Mitchell Polito, 5-2, tying the match at 3-3.
UNC took its first lead of the night after No. 11 Zach Sherman won his 141-pound match, and the No. 1 149-pounderin the nation, Austin O’Connor, picked up even more points for the Tar Heels in a major victory to extend North Carolina’s lead to 10-3.
The Tar Heels continued their run throughout the night, running up a 26-3 lead entering the final bout between UNC’s Brandon Whitman and Lehigh’s Jordan Wood. Wood ended up getting the 8-2 win, but North Carolina had locked up the win much earlier in the contest after dominating almost every bout. UNC wrapped up its 26-6 victory over the Mountain Hawks with a disqualification win in the 174-pound bout.
Who stood out?
O’Connor further solidified his No. 1 ranking by logging the largest margin of victory for his team, as he won 16-4 over his opponent, Jimmy Hoffman.
The No. 9 165-pounder, Kennedy Monday, dominated his bout against Lehigh’s Brian Meyer, winning 10-2 for a major victory to extend the Tar Heels' lead.
O’Connor’s win allowed him to stay a perfect 5-0 so far this season, while Monday’s victory snapped a two-match losing streak, improving to 5-2 in 2021 so far.
When was it decided?
The win was clinched for UNC long before the final bout was decided. The Mountain Hawks only managed to score six points in the meet, a total North Carolina surpassed during O’Connor’s win over Hoffman alone.
Why does it matter?
This match was important for UNC to win after North Carolina dropped two straight meets prior to the Pittsburgh contest, but the way the Tar Heels dominated the No. 25 team in the country, and were able to log a decisive win over No. 15 Pittsburgh the night prior, made a statement on where North Carolina sits in the national landscape.
After dropping consecutive matches to top-10 opponents, this weekend UNC was able to log two wins over ranked teams, and solidify their status as a top-15 program.
When do they play next?
Next weekend, UNC will return to Chapel Hill to host the Virginia Cavaliers (3-2, 2-2 ACC) for senior night and its final meet of the regular season on Feb. 13.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.