Ethan Ramos, Coleman Scott photos courtesy UNC Athletic Communications
Despite seven athletes qualify for the NCAA Tournament and having an All-American athlete for their fourth consecutive year, Carolina Wrestling had a fairly discouraging end to the 2016-2017 season. But that’s not stopping them from shooting high this season.
The Tar Heels are bringing back six seniors, including Troy Heilmann, Ethan Ramos, and Daniel Chaid, who each took 2nd place in the 2017 ACC Tournament in their weight classes. For these upperclassmen, this season is about achieving personal and team goals.
For Ramos, the 2017 season didn’t end as expected as he exited the NCAA Tournament with two opening-day losses. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, the former All-American and 2016 174-pound ACC champion is focused on sticking to his strengths this year. “Last year didn’t go the way I wanted, but I realized that I was overthinking things,” he said. “This year, I’m just working on simplifying it.”
Daniel Chaid, who recently took second place in the U23 World Team Trials, voiced the importance of reaching his own high expectations. “I’m shooting for everything, go undefeated and a national championship season,” he said.
Of the team’s aspirations, Chaid is just as hopeful, “Realistically, we could win the ACC, have ten national qualifiers, and finish top ten in the country.”
Head coach Coleman Scott is holding his expectations of the seniors just as high. “I expect all of our seniors to be All-Americans this year,” he said.
Heilmann, Chaid, and Ramos are all ranked in the preseason top 20 of their respective weight classes; along with juniors Chip Ness and Dalton Macri.
The Young Guys
It’s not just about the upperclassmen though, as over half the Tar Heel roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
“AC Headley and Kennedy Monday are both coming off redshirt (years)m and I think those are two young guys to watch out for,” Scott said when asked about underclassmen standouts. “They want to be great, and they’re falling in line with the rest of the team, our attitude, our mentality, what we want to accomplish.”
UNC is making a point this season to play tough competition. Their non-conference schedule is notably difficult, including road meets against no. 17 Nebraska, no. 11 Northern Iowa and no. 13 Rutgers, as well as home meet against no. 7 Arizona State. To add to the strength of schedule, the Heels will face no. 8 Virginia Tech and no. 12 North Carolina State on the road in conference play.
This isn’t fazing Heilmann, however. “The schedule is hard, but I think the solution is easy,” he said. “You wrestle the best guys, you get ready for them, you’re going to be ready for the national tournament.”
“It’s going to be a tough road schedule,” Scott said, “but I think to be ready for March, we need to be tested throughout the year.”
Getting it Going
The Tar Heels will be unofficially kicking off the season by holding a Navy vs. Carolina Blue scrimmage at the Carolina Wrestle Offs on Friday at 6 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.
Despite the discomfort that Scott said usually comes with scrimmages, where the coaches focus on watching instead of coaching, he is confident in his team. “I think the fans are going to be pleasantly surprised,” he said.
The team’s first official home meet is a month later, on November 26th at 2 p.m. against Appalachian State.
With expectations this high, and the team sitting at no. 18 in the preseason national rankings, there’s no question that this is going to be an exciting season.