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Wrestling falls to No. 24 North Carolina 17-16

The Cavaliers tied the score 16-16, but the Tar Heels were awarded an extra point based on criteria

<p>No. 23 graduate student Brian Courtney prepares to face off against his opponent on Friday.</p>

No. 23 graduate student Brian Courtney prepares to face off against his opponent on Friday.

The Virginia wrestling team continued ACC play on Friday night at home against No. 24 North Carolina. Despite a valiant effort, the Cavaliers (3-4, 0-2 ACC) fell to the Tar Heels (7-4, 2-0 ACC) 17-16 by way of criteria. The score was 16-16 at the end of all 10 matches, but since North Carolina edged Virginia in overall points 53-45, the criteria gave the Tar Heels the victory. 

“It hurts to come up a criteria point short, but I love our team and where we’re at right now. We just have to build,” Coach Steve Garland said. 

The duel opened with the Cavaliers taking an early lead because of No. 23 graduate student Brian Courtney. The 133-pound wrestler Courtney pulled off an upset against No. 10 senior Jamie Hernandez. After three rounds the score was tied 3-3 sending the match into a one-minute sudden victory. Courtney picked up a takedown for a 5-3 victory to give Virginia an early 3-0 lead. 

North Carolina would go on to win the next three weight classes beginning at 141 pounds. No. 7 graduate student Kizhan Clarke began the streak for the Tar Heels with a 6-2 decision victory against sophomore Dylan Cedeno. The win for Clarke tied the score 3-3. 

At 149 pounds, No. 22 senior Zach Sherman defeated No. 29 Jarod Verkleeren 6-2 to give North Carolina a 6-3 lead. After the loss, Verkleeren is now 16-5 on the season. 

No. 6 senior Austin O’Connor then gave the Tar Heels a 9-3 lead after defeating No. 28 fifth-year Jake Keating. O'Connor, who won the NCAA championship last year at 149-pounds, edged Keating 6-4 for a decision victory. 

At 165 pounds, No. 15 senior Justin McCoy improved to 11-0 on the season with a 6-2 decision victory against redshirt freshman Sonny Santiago. With the win McCoy, the ACC runner up last season at 157 pounds, cut North Carolina's lead to three, making it 9-6. 

North Carolina then regained their six-point lead at 174 pounds. No. 14 graduate student Clay Lautt picked up an 8-2 decision victory against junior Justin Phillips, making the score 12-6. 

The 184-pound weight class featured a ranked matchup between No. 21 redshirt freshman Gavin Kane and No. 22 graduate student Micheal Battista who was on an 11 game win streak. The highly anticipated match saw Kane dominate, winning 16-3 for a major decision victory. The win gave the Tar Heels a 16-6 lead. 

The Cavaliers then bounced back by winning the final three matches, beginning with No. 13 graduate student Jay Aiello at 197 pounds. Aiello improved to 8-1 on the season with a massive 13-3 major decision victory against No. 28 sophomore Max Shaw. The win cut North Carolina’s lead to six, making it 16-10. 

Next, at 285-pounds, No. 32 graduate student Quinn Miller picked up a 5-2 decision victory against senior Brandon Whitman to bring the Cavaliers within three points with one weight class remaining. 

The final match was at 125 pounds between senior Patrick McCormick and freshman Spencer Moore. McCormick edged Moore in overtime to tie the score of the dual meet 16-16. North Carolina was then awarded an extra point on the basis of criteria — outscoring Virginia 53-45 in total points — for the 17-16 victory. 

After the duel, No. 23 Courtney participated in an extra match against junior Joe Heilmann where he won 6-4 in sudden victory to improve to 9-2 on the season. 

“Some of the positives were winning in our positions and some tough positions when we were able to get into the positions we wrestle well in,” Garland said. “The downside was we didn’t execute some of the things we were working on and they executed on the things they do well.”

The Cavaliers will hit the road and travel to face No. 5 NC State Friday, Feb 4. at Reynolds Arena in Raleigh, N.C. 


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