The No. 22 North Carolina wrestling team (5-4, 1-0 ACC) opened its conference season with a 29-6 victory in its dual against rival Duke (6-6, 0-1 ACC) inside Carmichael Arena.
Spencer Moore started off the meet for the Tar Heels, recording a personal win over Duke’s Logan Agin, 10-1. UNC’s Joe Heilmann followed, notching two quick takedowns in the first 30 seconds to go up 4-0 over Drake Doolittle of the Blue Devils. After another takedown and a near fall, Heilmann eventually pinned Doolittle to win by fall — all within the first period. By the third match, UNC went up 13-0 after No. 7 Kizhan Clarke pulled off a last-minute takedown over Duke’s Parker Decker.
In the 149-pound matchup, No. 20 Zach Sherman for UNC and No. 13 Josh Finesilver for Duke had one of the most contested battles of the night. Late in the third period, Finesilver escaped to tie things up and force the match to into a sudden victory. Sherman continually dodged Finesilver’s attempts to go for his ankles, ducking and weaving. However, after a back-and-forth struggle on the rubber mat, Finesilver was able to earn a takedown to defeat Sherman and win three points for the Blue Devils.
After giving up these points, The Tar Heels bounced back with the help of No. 6 Austin O’Connor and Sonny Santiago. The two clenched back-to-back wins in their respective matches to put North Carolina up 19-3.
The seventh match of the night bred a top-25 bout between UNC’s Clay Lautt and Duke’s Matt Finesilver. Duke’s No. 13 ranked Finesilver found himself up 5-4 going into the final period. However, an illegal hold by Finesilver at the end of this period tied the score up 5-5. After a clutch escape and takedown, Lautt tacked back on three points to win the match by decision.
The 184 and 197-pound bouts saw UNC’s Gavin Kane and Max Shaw clenching wins over their opponents, with Shaw obliterating Duke’s Kaden Russell in a 16-1 win by technical fall. In the heavyweight round, UNC’s Brandon Whitman gave up three team points to Duke’s Jonah Niesenbaum, but the Tar Heels still pulled out a 23-point win.
Who stood out?
UNC wrestlers Shaw and Lautt showed a lot of grit in tonight’s dual. Lautt faced one of Duke’s highest-ranking wrestlers and pulled off a come-from–behind win despite two interruptions and an illegal hold used against him. On the other hand, Shaw continued to build on his recent trend of technical falls with a huge victory over the Duke’s Russell, putting the final nail in the coffin for the Blue Devils in tonight’s dual.
When was it decided?
In the fourth match of the night, the Blue Devils seemed to gain a bit of momentum as Josh Finesilver was able to earn a takedown, defeating UNC’s Sherman to win Duke’s first points of the night.
However, after North Carolina’s trusty O’Connor took to the mat, the spark that Finesilver ignited was quickly extinguished. O’Connor's win by decision helped UNC regain their confidence, and the Tar Heels never looked back. Key victories by Shaw and Lautt helped propel Carolina to their ultimate 29-6 victory.
Why does it matter?
Today’s win over the Blue Devils moves the Tar Heels to 5-4 on the season, bumping them up to a winning record. Their victory also extends UNC’s home dual win streak to five (dating back to last season).
This is also Coleman Scott’s sixth straight win over the Blue Devils, advancing his career coaching record to 65-38.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will host the Little Rock Trojans in Carmichael Arena on Sunday at 3 p.m. in their second matchup of the weekend.
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