With only one prior nationally ranked matchup taking place in Appalachian State wrestling history, the No. 22 ranked Mountaineer’s took down No. 25 UNC Tar Heels 18-16 Sunday afternoon in Varsity Gym.
The Black and Gold defended home ground and took six out of 10 matches from the visiting Tar Heels in route to their win. It is the first time the Apps have beaten two Power Five teams in the regular season since statistics began being kept in 1990-91. The Mountaineers beat No. 15 Oregon State earlier this season.
Entering the last match down 15-16, senior captain Denzel Dejournette won his heavyweight battle 8-2 to seal the deal for the Mountaineers. In spite of Dejournette’s highlight moment, there was a specific moment where head coach JohnMark Bentley felt momentum shift their way.
The turning point for the Mountaineers came in the fourth match of the evening when sophomore Matt Zovistoski battled himself back from down four points in the final period to keep them from falling in a 1-3 hole.
“I think [Zovistoski] coming back and getting the takedown at the end of the buzzer was the kick start we needed,” Bentley said. “If I had to point to one moment swing, I would say that was it.”
A stalling call on the Tar Heels with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match allowed Zovistoski to claw within one point of UNC’s Troy Heilmann. With the crowd behind him, Zovistoski earned two points on a takedown with less than 10 seconds left in the match to steal a 7-6 victory and pull the team score to within one point.
Flowing off the momentum of Zovistoski win, freshman Gavin Londoff earned the first home win of his career, upsetting No. 16 ranked Joey Moon in a 5-2 decision at the 157 pound weight class.
“It was good to get my first victory in front of the crowd at home,” Londoff said. “I took it like any other match. I’m not one of those guys that looks at rankings, stats or film.”
Senior Forrest Przybysz, who is currently No. 16 in the nation in the 165 pound division, earned a 5-0 victory to put the mountaineers up 12-7 with only four matches remaining.
After a tech fall loss in the 174 pound class earned the baby blue five team points and knotted the score at 12 all, junior David Peters-Logue gave the Mountaineers a three point advantage by defeating Elijah Kerr-Brown in double overtime to earn the win in the 184 pound division.
“Every other day we prepare for those 30 seconds ride outs and you can see in every weight class we are pushing the pace and that’s kind of the name of the game for our program,” Peters-Logue said. “I told myself ‘Okay you have 30 seconds, you’ve got to go right now. You’ve already put the work in, your muscles are already prepared for this.’”
Appalachian’s Randall Diabe fell to UNC’s Daniel Chaid 19-7 in a major decision at the 197 pound class, tallying four points for the Heels and a one point advantage over the mountaineers with one match remaining.
“We knew that we had to win heavyweight regardless,” Bentley said. “We knew that going into the match.”
With the fate of the match lying in the No. 9 nationally ranked heavyweight hands, the senior standout took advantage of the opportunity to close out the nationally ranked Tar Heels in his home gym. Dejournette defeated Corey Gilliland and won the match 8-2, leading his team to a two point victory over an ACC foe.
“It feels good but I try not to put any pressure on myself or pay attention to the outside things,” Dejournette said. “I try to control what I can control. I can’t control what happens before me I just have to go out there and give it everything I’ve got and let the chips fall where they may.”
Bentley had zero doubts when his senior leader stepped onto the mat, needing only three points to record another statement win for this team and the program.
“He steps up once in a pressure situation like he’s done so many times and when this team needs him, he always responds,” Bentley said. “If it had to come down to somebody, I feel pretty confident when Denzel steps out onto the mat.”
With wins Sunday evening, Dejournette improved his record to 10-2, Przybysz improved to 9-4, Zovistoski improved to 8-3, and Londoff improved to 6-5 on the season.
Sunday’s win over the Tar Heels moved the Mountaineers to 3-0 on the season including wins over two nationally ranked opponents. Appalachian is back in action on Wednesday as they travel to Raleigh to take on another ACC and nationally ranked opponent, No. 9 N.C. State.
Story By: John Robertson, Sports Reporter