NCAA WRESTLING: United's Henderson pulls off upset at tournament
OKLAHOMA CITY — Just hours after scoring the most significant win of his outstanding collegiate career, Armagh native Evan Henderson experienced the harshly tumultuous nature of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday night.
A University of North Carolina junior, Henderson (141 pounds) upset top-seeded Mitchell Port, of Edinboro, in the quarterfinal round, only to fall to fourth-seeded Devin Carter, of Virginia Tech, in the semifinals.
Penn State freshman Jimmy Gulibon, a Derry graduate, was eliminated after being nipped by Illinois’ Zane Richards in a second-round consolation bout. The three-day tournament will conclude tonight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Despite the loss, the ninth-seeded Henderson is guaranteed at least a top-six finish.
Henderson (39-7), who became UNC’s first All-American since 2005 when he placed sixth at last year’s national tournament, became the first Tar Heels wrestler to garner back-to-back All-America honors since 1997.
“It’s a good feeling,” Henderson said of again being named an All-American. “It’s not where I wanted to be. Obviously I wanted to be in the finals, but now I’ve got to set my sights on taking third.”
Henderson and his twin brother, Robert, wrestled at United in their freshmen seasons before transferring to Kiski School for the remainder of their high school careers.
The unbeaten Carter, a returning All-American and a three-time defending Atlantic Coast Conference champ, notched a takedown early in the first period to set the tone for a 12-3 major decision win over Henderson. Carter, a junior and the winner of the ACC tournament’s most outstanding wrestler award, improved his career record against Henderson to 4-0.
“I tried to look at it like any other match, but it was my first time wrestling on ESPN, so there was a little extra pressure,” Henderson said. “But I lost to Port four times before and after beating him today, I thought, alright, let’s go do it against this guy (Carter) — it’s no big deal — but that obviously wasn’t the case.”
In the quarterfinals, Henderson tallied a 5-3 win over another wrestler who’d beat him on four straight occasions, Port, a junior and 2010 graduate of Bellefonte High School. Port, a two-time defending Eastern Wrestling League champ and a runner-up in last year’s national tournament at 141, entered the match with a 30-0 record.
“I guess you could say it was,” said Henderson when asked if the win over Port marked the most notable victory of his career. “It was good. To do it in front of a crowd like that was just awesome.”
The last North Carolina wrestler who earned All-America status in back-to-back seasons was heavyweight Justin Harty, who did it four times in a row between 1994 and 1997.
A seventh-place finisher at the Big Ten tournament, Gulibon (18-16) dropped a 4-3 decision to Richards. Richards recorded 1:01 of riding time to avoid going to overtime in a match that otherwise would have ended 3-3.