For the first time ever, UNC's Boshamer Stadium hosted a wrestling dual meet on Sunday afternoon.
The event was a spectacle, with the North Carolina coaches dressed in UNC baseball jerseys and fire machines lining the Carolina blue wrestling mat situated at home plate.
“This is my sixth year here and we've (never) done anything like this — this was awesome,” graduate Clay Lautt said. “I’ve never wrestled outside and this weekend we wrestled at the Army hanger and the baseball stadium, so that was pretty awesome. These opportunities don’t come very often.”
Despite many Tar Heels expressing the unique home atmosphere as something they wanted to use to their advantage against No. 5 Michigan on Sunday, the Wolverines bested North Carolina, 23-12.
With graduates Zach Sherman and Austin O’Connor still nursing lingering injuries, North Carolina’s depth was put to the test early. In their places slotted in two budding youngsters for UNC in redshirt first-year Lachlan McNeil and first-year Danny Nini.
The two struggled in the dual’s opening contests, as they both surrendered early Wolverine takedowns en route to Michigan securing a pair of decision wins.
“I have high expectations for them, so it hurts a little bit,” head coach Coleman Scott said. “I thought those were matches we could’ve won or should’ve won. (The first-years) are right there; they got to live and learn, and train harder.”
However, one of the fresh faces who grew up quickly on the mat was redshirt first-year Sincere Bailey. Bailey's bout in the 157-pound category featured one of the toughest assignments of the day for UNC — battling No. 3 Will Lewan.
An All-American a season ago, Lewan returned to the Wolverines for his fifth year. Bailey looked past his opponent's illustrious career and fought his way to a one-point defeat that featured a near fall that Bailey earned in the second period.
“My coaches told me I can really improve from here,” Bailey said. “I feel disappointed from the fact that I lost — regardless of (Lewan’s) accolades.”
Despite finding itself in an early nine-point hole, North Carolina responded well.
Redshirt senior Joey Mazzara and Lautt both picked up decision victories to inch the Tar Heels within three points before the intermission. Out of the break, though, the Wolverines flexed their Big Ten muscle.
In the heavyweight bout, senior Brandon Whitman matched up with another highly-touted Wolverine in No. 3 Mason Parris. Whitman’s deficiencies were on display from the start as Parris notched a pair of early takedowns before earning a pin late in the first period.
As the Wolverines celebrated their newly earned six points, Parris leapt to his feet and pretended to hit an imaginary baseball out of the park.
“We better just put our heads down and get back to work,” Scott said. “I think we got pushed around the mat a little bit.”
Parris’ statement win not only tripled Michigan’s lead, but opened the door for the Wolverines in the duals’ final contests. In the last bout of the afternoon — with Michigan already in full control of the team scoring — redshirt sophomore Dylan Ragusin earned a 20-5 technical fall win to secure a double-digit victory for the Wolverines.
In a match where the Tar Heels watched the Wolverines rejoice numerous times on its respective bench — or dugout, for that matter — Lautt witnessed what he believes should be the standard for this season.
“Especially this year, we have high expectations for ourselves,” Lautt said. “We want to win the ACC. We want to be in the top five in the country."
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