The No. 16 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) fell to the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines (2-0), 23-12, Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
Doubles on the Diamond kicked off with a top-25 dual between Lachlan McNeil and Cole Mattin. Despite the close ranking between both wrestlers, the 141-pound bout was controlled by Michigan’s Mattin, whose early 6-0 lead helped him cruise to a decision win.
Danny Nini’s first career start possessed a daunting challenge, as the first-year wrestler competed up a weight class in the 149-pound division. Nini stood his ground for the first two periods, earning a two-point takedown midway through the second period. But Chance Lamer’s persistence resulted in a pair of stalling infractions by the Tar Heels, helping the Wolverines earn their second decision win of the day.
The ensuing individual match would favor Michigan, as All-American Will Lewan’s decision win opened up a 9-0 lead for the visitors.
Redshirt senior Joey Mazzara helped get the Tar Heels on the board in the 165-pound contest against Zack Mattin. Mazzara’s late takedown in the final period helped UNC secure the decision victory, cutting its deficit to six.
North Carolina’s newfound momentum carried over into the 174-pound division, which featured the highest-ranked wrestler rostered by the Tar Heels. No. 5 Clay Lautt flexed his muscle early, as a pair of takedowns in the first period helped the redshirt senior give UNC its second decision victory of the afternoon.
Out of the brief intermission, a pair of top-15 wrestlers entered the mat. Despite sophomore Gavin Kane holding the superior ranking, a Wolverine takedown in the second period gave Matt Finesilver the 4-0 decision win.
Trailing by six points in the team scoring, North Carolina was in need of a spark. Redshirt sophomore Max Shaw helped the Tar Heels regain some ground, as his escape midway through the 197-pound bout helped UNC secure a win by decision.
However, Michigan was quick to respond. In the heavyweight battle, No. 3 Mason Parris’ fall victory tripled the Wolverine’s advantage to 18-9. The two teams would split the final bouts with Michigan's final win coming by technical fall.
Who stood out?
Going up against the No. 3 wrestler in his weight class, Sincere Bailey stood his ground. The redshirt first-year played well above his years, earning a near-fall in the second period and only losing to Michigan’s All-American by one point.
Lautt’s experience also proved notable in the Tar Heels’ home bout. After a runner-up finish in last year’s ACC championship, the redshirt senior returned for one final year. The Olathe, Kan. native’s tactical attacks helped North Carolina draw within a decision victory midway through the contest.
When was it decided?
Despite falling behind 6-0 early, North Carolina fought back. Lautt’s decision win would inch the Tar Heels within three points before the break.
Out of the break, the Wolverines reasserted themselves on the mat. Parris’ fall victory awarded Michigan six points and helped the maize and blue open up an insurmountable lead over the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
Battling against a top-five team should serve as a litmus test for the Tar Heels.
With a number of North Carolina’s returning core pieces still recovering from injury — namely redshirt seniors Auston O’Connor and Zach Sherman — UNC’s youth was put to the test Sunday. The performance from Bailey should stand as a positive sign of things to come for the Tar Heels.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will hit the road to participate in the Life University Open on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Marietta, Ga.
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