Another NCAA Champ for North Carolina?

publishedabout 1 year ago
1 min read

In 2021 Austin O'Connor won an NCAA title, then in 2022 Kizhan Clarke made the finals. Can the Tar Heels keep the success going?

Let's look at the 2023 UNC lineup. . .

Who's Returning & Leaving?

Two notable Tar Heels are gone, one of which was a National finalist.

  • 133. Joe Heilmann (qualifier, transfer)
  • 141. Kizhan Clarke (NCAA finalist)

On the bright side, All-Americans Austin O'Connor (157), Zach Sherman (149), and Clay Lautt (174) will keep the lineup strong. NCAA qualifier Gave Kane (184) also boosts up the team.

New Starters, Transfers, & More

The only real spot to "fill" is 141, but #5 recruit of 2020 Lachlan McNeil will finally get his time to shine.

Sonny Santiago (165), Max Shaw (197), and Brandon Whitman (285) both started last year but came up short at ACCs. Lightweight Spencer Moore (125) is in the same boat, but he could be challenged by UNI transfer Jack Wagner; that is, unless the true sopho"Moore" decides to redshirt.

The last spot is at 133. But even with Heilmann transferred to Rutgers, Jaime Hernandez was a National qualifier in 2020.

2023 Lineup Preview

Here's how I expect the team to look in 2023:

  • 125. Moore / Wagner
  • 133. Jaime Hernandez
  • 141. Lachlan McNeil
  • 149. Zach Sherman (AA in '21)
  • 157. Austin O'Connor (8th)
  • 165. Sonny Santiago
  • 174. Clay Lautt (8th)
  • 184. Gavin Kane (NQ)
  • 197. Max Shaw
  • 285. Brandon Whitman

What to Expect

While NC State and Virginia Tech are the leaders in the ACC, North Carolina has a legitimate shot to beat them in dual meets this season. Don't be shocked if you see an upset. . . or two.

As far as another NCAA Champion, I think Austin O'Connor is a clear contender at 157. He was injured at Nationals last year and still battled back to place. And with David Carr (ISU) and Quincy Monday (PRINC) bumping up to 165, O'Connor can become a 2xer.

Josiah Hritsko

Wrestling Fan & Founder of Fanco Wrestling

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