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Miller and Uliano propel App State wrestling past No. 21 UNC 24-14

Junior+165-pound+Will+Miller+pin+UNCs+Isaias+Estrada+Dec.+17.+
Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics
Junior 165-pound Will Miller pin UNC’s Isaias Estrada Dec. 17.

App State wrestling found themselves against a familiar foe Sunday afternoon as they took on No. 21 North Carolina. The Black and Gold defeated UNC on the backs of two crucial pins by 165-pound junior Will Miller and 174-pound redshirt sophomore Luke Uliano. 

The bout kicked off at 125 pounds, which saw redshirt freshman Noah Luna take on No. 24 Spencer Moore of UNC. A slow start for both wrestlers saw the score deadlocked at zero, before Moore took Luna down to give himself a comfortable 4-1 lead heading into the third period. Luna mixed an escape on Moore’s initial hold with a takedown of his own to bring the match to a winnable 7-6 score line, but Moore broke Luna’s grasp and escaped to win the match 8-6. 

The 133-pound match saw No. 20 redshirt sophomore Ethan Oakley facing off against the Tar Heels’ Jace Palmer. The first two rounds had little action as the two continuously jockeyed for positioning, but were unable to find any points outside of an early Oakley escape. The match went into the final two minutes with Oakley grasping to a one-point lead. Oakley dominated Palmer late in the final period, notching two takedowns with under a minute left to put the match away and win 7-2. 

The third match continued at the 141-pound division as UNC’s Derek Guanajuato faced off against redshirt junior Ike Byers. Byers made his season duel debut during the bout and made it count, taking a slow-paced but hard fought win against Guanajuato off two escapes to win the match 2-1. App State was ahead of UNC 6-3 after this match. 

The 149-pound duel saw two ranked wrestlers face off as UNC’s No. 21 Jayden Scott met No. 27 redshirt senior Cody Bond in the middle. Scott dominated Bond for the majority of the match, notching himself a takedown Bond was unable to break until late in the first period. Scott held Bond off for the rest of the match, only allowing Bond points off escapes and allowing him to generate little offense as Scott won 4-3. 

The fifth match brought No. 19 junior Tommy Askey to the mat as he found himself against Danny Nini. Askey took Nini down early and built up nearly 30 seconds of ride time before Nini escaped the hold and went to the final period with Askey taking the advantage 3-2. 

“I think we were really flat in the first five matches,” said head coach JohnMark Bentley. “I felt we needed to regroup and talk about what our goals are.”

The final period saw Askey continuing to get Nini in his grasp, but good takedown defense thwarted any opening for Askey until he finally broke through getting a second takedown and adding one point for ride time to take the match 7-2. 

The next two matches showed absolute domination from the Mountaineers as No. 25 Miller and Uliano both picked up crucial pins that propelled the team score to 21-6 at the end of the two matches. 

“I think the big momentum shift was when we got those two pins coming out of intermission,” Bentley said. “Felt like it kind of kickstarted us to go ahead and wrap the match up.”

Miller made easy work of Isaias Estrada as he achieved a takedown, which he then flipped into a pin all within the first minute of the match. Uliano used magnificent takedown defense to flip his opponent into a pin early in the second period of the match to give himself the win. 

The eighth and ninth matches proved UNC’s top 25 ranking as their two best wrestlers met to face off against 184-pound freshman Tomas Brooker and 197-pound sophomore Carson Floyd. Brooker was in an early 6-1 hole that he failed to break out of and lost to No. 18 Gavin Kane 11-3.

Brooker, a true freshman, made only his second duel appearance for the Black and Gold. Although coming up short, Bentley mentioned that he liked Brooker being the starter at 184 pounds and that he fits the lineup very well. 

 Floyd, last year’s Freshman of the Year in the SoCon, made his duel debut against No. 15 Max Shaw from UNC and saw the same outcome as Brooker. Shaw got Floyd down early taking a 8-1 lead out of the second period and never relinquished it winning 13-3. 

Heavyweights brought the in-state rivalry to a close as senior Jacob Sartorio faced off against UNC’s Cade Lautt. Sartorio seemed to get the memo from the first couple of matches and took a slow and methodical 1-0 lead into the final period. Sartorio exploded in the final period nailing Lautt for two takedowns and pushing past his opponent for the 7-3 win pushing the Mountaineers to a 24-14 final scoreline.  

Mountaineer wrestling is in action again on New Year’s Day as they will travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the annual Southern Scuffle. Matches will go all day and championship rounds will be decided on Jan. 2. 

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About the Contributor
Trey Blake
Trey Blake, Reporter
Trey Blake (he/him) is a sophomore digital journalism major, media studies minor, from Clayton, NC. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
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