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Will Miller
Will Miller won both matches in the doubleheader.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Wrestling Upsets 21st Ranked North Carolina in Boone

Once wrestling resumed, App State delivered a 12-point flurry — and the first of back-to-back pins happened in a crowd-rousing hurry.

Participating in only their second dual of the season with a young, inexperienced team, the Mountaineers beat a ranked North Carolina squad for the second straight season by winning 24-14 against the No. 21 Tar Heels in Varsity Gym.

App State handed UNC a narrow loss last year in Chapel Hill, and a large home crowd in the High Country was looking for a reason to explode on a sleepy, rainy Sunday afternoon. The Mountaineers claimed three of the first five matches to take a 9-6 lead into the halfway-point intermission, but coming out of the break, Will Miller produced a six-point pin just 43 seconds into his 165-pound match and Luke Uliano followed with another six-point pin late in the second period of his 174-pound match.

Just like that, App State (1-1) had a 21-6 lead with three matches remaining, including two in a row with top-20 wrestlers from North Carolina (6-3) taking the mat.

The Mountaineers held a seven-point advantage going into the final match, and heavyweight Jacob Sartorio used a pair of third-period takedowns to prevail 7-3. Ethan Oakley, Ike Byers and Tommy Askey were responsible for the pre-intermission victories, as Byers won a 2-1 decision at 141 pounds while making his first dual start in his fifth year with the program.

App State, which opened its 2023-24 dual schedule with a loss to No. 2 NC State, picked up its 11th victory against a Power Five opponent since JohnMark Bentley became the Mountaineers’ head coach.

North Carolina’s lineup often has five ranked wrestlers, although it was missing returning All-American Lachlan McNeil, who was in Alberta, Canada, over the weekend winning the Canadian Olympic Trials. Even if the Tar Heels could have gotten the maximum of six points from his normal spot in the lineup, it would have created only a nine-point swing in App State’s 10-point victory.

Byers followed Oakley’s 7-2 win against Jace Palmer with a 2-1 decision decided by a tiebreaking point for stalling against Derek Guanajuato with 1:07 remaining. Byers increased his season total to 12 victories and was promoted to a captain’s role as Bentley addressed the team in the locker room following the dual.

Jayden Scott won 4-3 against App State’s Cody Bond at 149 in the only ranked showdown, giving UNC its second win in addition to 22nd-ranked Spencer Moore’s 8-6 decision against redshirt freshman Noah Luna, and the Mountaineers totaled 15 points over the next three matches.

Askey claimed a 7-3 decision against Danny Nini before Miller and Uliano opened the second half of the dual with momentous outcomes. Miller’s victory followed his clutch win against a returning All-American in the 2022 victory at UNC, and Uliano held a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the second period before gaining control with a near fall and subsequent pin.

North Carolina’s Gavin Kane (ranked 18th) and Max Shaw (ranked 15th) posted consecutive major decisions against Tomas Brooker and Carson Floyd at 184 and 197, but those four-point wins while trying to overcome a 21-6 deficit weren’t enough to keep the team outcome in doubt going into the final match.

Sartorio, who trailed 2-1 in the third period against Cade Lautt, moved ahead on a takedown with 1:15 left and added another with 17 seconds remaining.

The 2023-24 season is presented by Hungry Howies and Penn Station.

App State 24, #21 North Carolina 14
125: #22 Spencer Moore (UNC) def. Noah Luna (APP), 8-6 dec.
133: #20 Ethan Oakley (APP) def. Jace Palmer (UNC), 7-2 dec.
141: Ike Byers (APP) def. Derek Guanajuato (UNC), 2-1 dec.
149: #21 Jayden Scott (UNC) def. #27 Cody Bond (APP), 4-3 dec.
157: #19 Tommy Askey (APP) def. Danny Nini (UNC), 7-3 dec.
165: #25 Will Miller (APP) def. Isaias Estrada (UNC), fall (0:43)
174: Luke Uliano (APP) def. Marcus Murabito (UNC), fall (4:28)
184: #18 Gavin Kane (UNC) def. Tomas Brooker (APP), 12-3 maj. dec.
197: #15 Max Shaw (UNC) def. Carson Floyd (APP), 14-4 maj. dec.
Hwt: Jacob Sartorio (APP) def. Cade Lautt (UNC), 7-3 dec.