When Coleman Scott took over the head coaching job for the North Carolina wrestling team in 2015, he inherited a program that had seen little success on the mat.
In his first full recruiting cycle, Coleman hauled in four top-100 wrestlers according to InterMat — Austin O’Connor, Jaime Hernandez, Zach Sherman and Clay Lautt. With a combined eight All-American honors, four ACC individual titles and one NCAA championship, this group served as the keystone in North Carolina’s ascent to one of the top programs in the ACC.
However, after several injuries produced dissatisfying ends to last season, each of these four wrestlers decided to return for a sixth and final season at UNC.
On June 13, the quartet of UNC wrestling royalty released a video on Twitter with a simple message — “we’re back.”
“It was almost like a group decision,” Sherman said. “We all knew that we weren’t satisfied.”
At the Garden State Grapple in November, Hernandez suffered a serious injury that sidelined him for over two months. After attempting to return against Virginia, the 133-pound wrestler’s lingering pains loomed too large, and Hernandez was forced to sit out the remainder of the year.
“(This class) has seen the ups and downs,” Scott said.
Around the same time, Sherman injured his hip but kept the news private from opponents so they couldn't use it to their advantage. The Islamorada, Fla. native limped to a 9-11 season record, a disappointing year for the 2020 141-pound ACC individual champion.
Likewise, O’Connor suffered a knee injury in the postseason. The former 149-pound NCAA champion had to settle for an eighth-place finish in last year’s NCAA Championships after medically forfeiting.