PITTSBURGH – Things didn’t go according to plan for AC Headlee in his second appearance in the NCAA wrestling tournament, but the Waynesburg Central graduate enjoyed the chance to compete in front of his family, friends and hometown fans on Friday at the PPG Paints Arena.
Headlee (20-12) had his season come to a close in a 10-4 setback to South Fayette graduate and Illinois redshirt sophomore Mike Carr (14-7) in the second round of consolations at 141 pounds during Friday morning’s third session. Headlee finished his redshirt junior campaign for the University of North Carolina at 20-12.
“I’m still kind of analyzing everything,” Headlee said. “Obviously, right now I am kind of feeling a little (angry) and embarrassed, but I am just trying to keep my head up. It was a really cool experience to wrestle so close to my hometown. I just saw my parents about 30 minutes ago. As a Pennsylvania native, it is really cool to see the biggest tournament in the world in our home state and city. If I had a say, I would have NCAAs here every year.
“I am a couple of years older than Mike (Carr), but we trained at the same club together at Qwest in Canonsburg and know each other. Right now, I am done wrestling in this tournament, so all I am focused on is to be a good teammate and supporting my teammates. I will be getting back at it pretty soon to prepare for next season.”
Headlee came out aggressive in the first period against Carr and was in on a single-leg attempt in the opening minute, but Carr was able to hold on for a stalemate. Carr attempted a single leg of his own that Headlee fought off before Carr took a 2-0 lead with 1:24 left when he finished a double leg. Headlee escaped but Carr finished off a single leg with a trip for a 4-1 advantage heading into the second.
“He (Headlee) finishes that shot early and it may be a whole different match but you never know,” UNC coach Coleman Scott said. “You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. It was a big opportunity and we will learn from it. It’s all we can do.
“When you end the year with what you don’t want, it’s definitely hard, but it doesn’t define who you are and who you are going to be. Having this hurt and turmoil is going to make you a better man at the end of the day, and it is going to take you a lot further in life than you can even imagine.”
Carr chose bottom to start the second, escaped and added a third takedown for a 7-1 lead. Headlee escaped to cut the deficit to five entering the third. Headlee added another escape in the third but Carr earned his fourth takedown with 1:09 remaining for a 9-3 advantage. Headlee scored another escape and Carr accumulated another point for riding time.
Carr was pinned in his next bout by Utah Valley’s Matt Findlay (17-3) in the third round of consolations to close out his season.
Carr and members of the Illini coaching staff were unavailable for comment.
Scott, who is in his fourth season as head coach of the Tar Heels, guided two UNC wrestlers to the semifinals in Austin O’Connor (32-6 at 149) and Chip Ness (22-12 at 184). O’Connor lost his semifinal bout, 7-4, but can finish no lower than sixth and assured himself of All-American status in qualifying for the final four. Ness’ match wasn’t available at press time.
“If we get a guy in the finals, it would be my first time coaching someone in the finals at UNC,” said Scott prior to the fourth session. “They are all exciting matches right now. They have had national champs at UNC but it has been a while.”
North Carolina has three individual national champions and five total titles, as C.D. Mock (1982), Rob Koll (1988) and T.J. Jaworsky (1993, ’94, ’95) won NCAA gold.
UNC’s Devin Kane (19-14) came into the national tournament as the 33rd seed at 174, but competed in the blood round for a chance to become an All-American on Friday night.
“We have one guy in the blood round that is a 33 seed, but that’s what this tournament is,” Scott said. “It’s a crazy tournament and you have to step out there ready to wrestle no matter what your record or seed is. Our guy came to compete, he believes in the system and himself and it is showing.”
The Tar Heels were in 15th place prior to the fourth session with 24 team points. UNC had its best showing since 1995 last year at nationals when it was 20th. North Carolina was three points shy of the 27 it scored last season in Cleveland, which was its most since ’96.
“We are in a good spot now and have a chance to do things we haven’t done in a while,” Scott said. “Coaching is what I signed up for and I love it. We are a pretty high energy group of guys on staff and they feed off it.”
Scott was a national champion in 2008 at 133 and a four-time All-American at Oklahoma State under legendary coach John Smith. The former Cowboy also relishes the opportunity to catch up with his collegiate mentor.
“Coach Smith and I have caught up a lot,” Scott said. “He is one of the best coaches in the world and a big reason why I chose to attend Oklahoma State. To be able to learn from him as an athlete and as a coach is invaluable, and I am still learning from him. I was very fortunate to be in that situation and have that opportunity.”
Belle Vernon graduate Zach Hartman ran out of time in an 11-8 setback to Oklahoma’s Justin Thomas (24-10) to end his freshman season at 28-9. Hartman was attempting to rally for the third time in as many bouts.
Thomas held an 8-2 lead after he scored a reversal with 1:48 remaining in the bout. Hartman started his rally with an escape and picked up another point when Thomas was penalized for stalling. The Bucknell 157-pounder cut the deficit to 8-6 when he scored a takedown with 31 seconds left.
Hartman allowed Thomas to escape for a three-point advantage before securing another takedown with 10 seconds remaining to trim the deficit to one. He cut Thomas again but couldn’t get the match-tying takedown. Thomas also was awarded one point for riding time.
Hartman rallied for the second time in as many matches for a 6-5 decision over Army’s Luke Weiland (25-12) in the second round of consolations in Session III. Hartman trailed 4-2 on the scoreboard with 20 seconds left in the third, but was technically down by three with Weiland having riding time wrapped up. The Bison freshman escaped and scored a takedown with 17 seconds left to send the match into overtime. Hartman won the bout on a penalty point.
Weiland opened the scoring with a takedown 1:11 into the first and took a 2-0 lead into the second. Hartman scored a reversal and the bout went into the third tied at two. Weiland scored his second takedown with 1:07 left in the match before Hartman started his rally.
The fifth session begins this morning at 11 a.m. with placement bouts for third to eighth before the Parade of All-Americans starts at 6:30 p.m. The championship finals will be contested on one mat at 7 p.m.