DURHAM, N.C.—Duke turned in a handful of outstanding and thrilling individual performances, but bonus points proved to be the difference for the 13th-ranked Tar Heels as North Carolina came away with the 23-16 victory in the final regular season wrestling dual. The Blue Devils honored their five outstanding seniors prior to the match.
Duke and North Carolina both won five bouts apiece, but a total of seven bonus points for the Tar Heels across three weights was the difference. The Blue Devils garnered crucial wins for postseason seeding at both the conference and the national level.
“I thought it was good effort tonight by our guys,” said head coach Glen Lanham. “We just let some bonus points in. The matches we needed to have for national qualifying and postseason stuff we got.”
Two of the most exciting matches of the night came from a seniors Alec Schenk and Mitch Finesilver in their final matches inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Josh Finesilver had the fans on their feet in his last-second victory at 141 pounds, while brothers Matt Finesilver and Zach Finesilver capped a 4-0 night for the family.
Matt Finesilver put the Blue Devils on their right foot with a solid 5-0 decision over Devin Kane at 174 pounds. The win was his 23rd of the year and pushed his ACC record to 4-1 heading into the ACC Championships.
After North Carolina took over the lead with a major decision at 184 pounds, Schenk put the Blue Devils fans on their feet with a thrilling win over Brandon Whitman at 197. The redshirt senior put the first point on the board with an escape early in the second period.
Whitman answered with an escape to start the third to tie the match and then picked up a stalling point for the 2-1 lead. Unfazed as the clock hit 30 seconds, Schenk finished on top and scored the takedown with 22 seconds left and rode out the match to put the Blue Devils back in front in the team score.
North Carolina pulled away with bonus point victories in the next three weights before Josh Finesilver stopped the bleeding, quite literally.
Up against A.C. Headlee who was near the top in the ACC and ranked 19th in the coaches’ rankings, Josh fell behind early, trailing 8-3 in the second period. Despite needing three blood timeouts and ultimately a head wrap, Josh Finesilver chipped away at the lead, getting it to three, 8-5 with one final period left.
Energized, the Colorado native escaped quickly to make it 8-6 and then went to work, getting a takedown as time expired for the 12-10 triumph. It was another crucial win for the Blue Devils as he makes his bid for seeding at ACC’s and a bid to the NCAA Championships.
“I do think he’s peaking at the right time,” Lanham said. “Everything went wrong for him in that match. He’s bleeding all over the place. We got that under control and he comes back and wins. I think he’s coming along at the right time. He’s starting to believe.”
Mitch Finesilver followed suit and made his senior night a memorable one, upending fourth-ranked Austin O’Connor by a 6-4 score. Splitting the two previous matches this season, Mitch led 3-1 after two periods. O’Connor started the final stanza on bottom and quickly went in front 4-3 with 60 seconds left.
Looking to solidify the No. 1 seed in the ACC Championship, Mitch quickly escaped and then 30 seconds later took down O’Connor and rode out the match for the 6-4 victory.
Zach Finesilver capped the night for the Blue Devils, cruising past Sawyer Davidson 13-3 for his 16th win of the campaign and his second against an ACC foe.
The Blue Devils will work this coming week before tapering off in preparation for the ACC Championships March 9 at Virginia Tech.
“This next week is going to be really hard,” Lanham said. “Then we’re going to taper off and by the following Wednesday we’ll just sharpen them up a bit.”
North Carolina 23, Duke 16
174: Matt Finesilver (Duke) decision Devin Kane (UNC), 5-0 | UNC 0, Duke 3
184: No. 14 Chip Ness (UNC) major decision Kaden Russell (Duke), 15-7 | UNC 4, Duke 3
197: Alec Schenk (Duke) decision Brandon Whitman (UNC), 3-2 | UNC 4, Duke 6
285 : No. 20 Cory Daniel (UNC) tech fall Araad Fisher (Duke), 22-7 | UNC 9, Duke 6
125 : Joe Heilmann (UNC) tech fall Harrison Campbell (Duke), 22-6 | UNC 14, Duke 6
133: No. 20 Gary Wayne Harding (UNC) fall Arien Leigh (Duke), 4:23 | UNC 20, Duke 6
141: Josh Finesilver (Duke) decision A.C. Headlee (UNC), 12-10 | UNC 20, Duke 9
149: No. 7 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) decision No. 4 Austin O’Connor (UNC), 6-4 | UNC 20, Duke 12
157: No. 20 Josh McClure (UNC) decision Benjamin Anderson (Duke), 10-5 | UNC 23, Duke 12
165: Zach Finesilver (Duke) major decision Sawyer Davidson (UNC), 13-3 | UNC 23, Duke 16