North Carolina head wrestling coach Coleman Scott wants his team to "go 1-0 every weekend," but if the Tar Heels are ever in a position to collect two victories in a three-day span, he'd certainly take that, too.
On Sunday afternoon, No. 22 UNC did exactly that when the team dominated upset-minded Little Rock, 37-6, in Carmichael Arena.
“It’s our sport, Friday and Sunday, no matter who you’re wrestling, we expect the same of our guys every time,” Scott said. “We've got to take it personal. We want to win every time we step foot on the mat.”
First-year Spencer Moore got the day started with an easy 11-2 victory, utilizing four takedowns and a six-point third period to run away from his opponent.
Moore physically wore down his opponent, despite their same build and weight class, and said he felt like his win at 125 pounds gave the Tar Heels the leg-up they needed to earn the victory.
“It’s a big responsibility because it shapes the momentum of the whole match,” Moore said. “Earlier in the season, we lost to those top-tier teams, and I feel like I could’ve won some of my matches and helped us out overall. That’s been my focus coming into the second half of the year, to try and get us bonus points and establish momentum.”
Later on, entering the 149-pound bout, No. 20 redshirt senior Zach Sherman physically manhandled his Little Rock opponent en route to a 14-2 win. He utilized a four-point near fall and three takedowns to build his lead, putting UNC up 15-0 before redshirt senior Austin O’Connor took to the mat at 157 pounds.
The 2021 national champion and current No. 6 wrestler in the country fell behind 2-0 early but rallied, as he’s done for his entire career, to dominate his opponent with lightning quick hits and ferocious takedowns after his opponent scored first.
“He got a little pissed off in the beginning getting taken down first, but then he rattled off 23 points,” Scott said. “I loved his weekend, at 2-0 and a weight up.”
O’Connor put the Tar Heels up 20-0, but they could not hold the shutout in the 165-pound bout after redshirt first-year Sonny Santiago got pinned in the second period.
Then came the afternoon’s most exciting match with the 174-pound weight class. No. 16 Clay Lautt faced an unranked, but challenging opponent from Little Rock, Triston Wills, and Lautt fell behind 2-1 after the first period.
Wills started the second frame on the attack and appeared to earn a two-point takedown before the officials deemed the wrestlers to be off the mat, infuriating the Little Rock coaching staff. Then, with the score tied at four apiece, Little Rock’s coach challenged a ruling and both wrestlers got a chance to recover from their intense bout.
Lautt credited the UNC coaching staff for having him prepared to deal with random stoppages.
“We’ve worked with our coaches on the little breaks in a match, and we’ve brought in sports psychiatrists to help us with them,” Lautt said. “We need to use those to zone back in on what we’re doing instead of what the refs are doing.”
With two wins in a row, the Tar Heels will look ahead to a conference matchup against Virginia on Friday, and, following a bout at Appalachian State, will face three straight ranked opponents before heading into the ACC Championships.
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