Lineup Look: Fresh Faces Abound For Tar Heels
North Carolina produced five NCAA qualifiers last year, four of whom return to the lineup this year. Aside from that though, it looks like the squad will be filled by true freshmen, guys coming off injury or cracking the starting lineup for the first time, and a transfer.
UNC 2017-18 Lineup125: Dalton Macri
133: Jaime Hernandez/Zach Sherman
141: A.C. Headlee
149: Troy Heilmann
157: Kennedy Monday
165: Jack Clark/Clay Lautt
174: Ethan Ramos
184: Chip Ness
197: Daniel Chaid
285: Cory Daniel
The Tar Heels will have some new faces in their lineup at the first three weights. At 125, Dalton Macri transferred in from Cornell this summer, where he qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2016. Macri starts the year ranked 12th and has career wins over the likes of David Terao, Ronnie Bresser and Barlow McGhee.
A battle at 133 has emerged between two treshmen from power high school programs in Jaime Hernandez of Oak Park River Forest in Illinois and Zach Sherman from Blair Academy in New Jersey. They were part of UNC's 10th ranked recruiting class and both appeared on the 2017 Big Board. This is right where Sherman projected at, but probably a bit smaller than most thought Hernandez would be at the college level.
A.C. Headlee is not new to the program, but will finally take over the starting spot. He redshirted last year after starting five times at the beginning of his freshman campgain. Headlee was considered a blue chip coming out of high school and was victorious at the second Who's Number One. His biggest wins to date are over Matt Manley, Luke Karam and Javier Gasca.
Troy Heilmann is one of the returning NCAA qualifiers, also making it to the big show at the end of the 2015 season. Heilmann is ranked No. 19 right now, but was only 15-15 last season.
Kennedy Monday makes it four rookie starters in the first five weights. One of the lankier guys in his weight, he was 18-6 during his redshirt season at 149. Coleman Scott and the rest of the coaching staff will be banking on Monday being a more natural fit up a weight.
Watch Monday's NCO finals win
Aside from 133, the other roster battle is brewing at 165, where redshirt junior Jack Clark and true freshman Clay Lautt are the main characters. Clark will likely have to improve on his 7-10 record from a year ago to hold off former Cadet Greco world teamer Lautt, as the Tar Heels do not seem to be afraid to have guys start right away this year.
For 133 and 165, as well as any other roster questions that may emerge during the preseason, UNC will decide the starter based on a combination of wrestle-offs and performance at an early season open. They have not yet announced their full schedule, but we do know they host seven home duals: non-conference matches against American, Appalachian State, Army West Point, Arizona State and Wyoming, as well as ACC duals with Duke and Pitt.
Moving up to 174 is UNC's primary threat to All American this season in Ethan Ramos. He starts the year ranked 7th in the country, but has not placed after finishing sixth as a freshman. That weight does not leave a lot for wiggle room for guys to place outside of the top five.
Chip Ness's season ended in January, but he was an NCAA qualifier in 2016. He's totaled a 44-33 record since being on campus, but wrestles in what will be a generally depleted weight. However, with the return of Pete Renda to NC State, it may be a bit more difficult to win the ACC.
Ness beat 2017 All American Preston Weigel at the end of the 2016 season
Daniel Chaid was the only 197 listed on the roster by the end of last year, but they have since added freshmen Chasen Blair and Nick Mosco, as well as 2018 recruit Brandon Whitman. Chaid has wrestled 184, 197 and 285 in his career, but settles in the middle for his final crack at a podium finish. He could start the year in the Top-10.
Cory Daniel is the final returning NCAA qualifier. The Maryland native Daniel has steadily improved as he has grown into a full sized heavyweight. The Tar Heels also have an option in redshirt freshman Andrew Gunning, who is from Pennsylvania.
For a still young coaching staff, the likely goal this year is to once again increase the number of NCAA qualifiers, and land at least Ramos on the podium. If someone else like Chaid or Macri can break through and get a surprise podium finish, UNC will ride a strong wave into their Class of 2019 recruiting cycle.