No. 21 Virginia wrestling closed out its regular season with a loss against No. 14 North Carolina Saturday night at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Cavaliers (3-3, 2-3 ACC) were unable to carry over the momentum they had gained from their previous two wins as the Tar Heels (5-2, 3-2 ACC) proved to be too strong and downed Virginia 25-9.
North Carolina had a strong start to the dual and won the first three matches of the night. No. 1 junior Austin O’Connor picked up bonus points for the Tar Heels with a major decision victory against sophomore Denton Spencer in the 149-pound division. After three matches, North Carolina held a 10-0 lead.
Despite North Carolina’s early lead, Virginia rallied and won the next two matches. No. 17 sophomore Justin McCoy and No. 13 junior Jake Keating each recorded decision victories at 157 and 165 pounds, respectively, to reduce the deficit to 10-6 halfway through the dual.
However, No. 18 junior Clay Lautt at the 174-pound division recorded a decision victory for the Tar Heels to stop the Cavaliers’ momentum. Senior Devin Kane followed that up with a pin victory in the 184-pound division to pick up big bonus points for North Carolina. After seven matches, North Carolina led 19-6.
No. 8 senior Jay Aiello recorded a victory for Virginia at 197 pounds, knocking off No. 19 freshman Max Shaw, but North Carolina won the final two matches of the night and ended up winning the dual by a score of 25-9.
“It’s been a really hard week,” Coach Steve Garland said. “We faced a lot of adversity coming into this match tonight. As much as it stunk to go through it, and as much as tonight hurts, I know it’s good for us. I’ve said it before, but we are refined in the fire. I’m anticipating a lot of good fruit coming out of this.”
The Cavaliers will return to action in two weeks to take part in the ACC Championship. The meet will be hosted by NC State Feb. 28 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. Following the ACC Championship, the Cavaliers will likely head to the 2021 NCAA Championship, which will be held March 18-20 in St. Louis, Mo.