In today’s tri-meet that came together following last week’s Winter Storm Jonas, the NC State Wolfpack men dispatched both the North Carolina Tarheels (186-112) and Virginia Cavaliers (222-78) down in Chapel Hill. UNC bettered the Cavaliers, their arch-rival, 201.5-98.5.
The Wolfpack won the first eight swimming events, including three straight 1-2 finishes, to dominate their conference rivals. Anton Ipsen, Soren Dahl, and Hennessey Stuart were the individual stars of the day, winning two events each for the Wolfpack.
NC State nearly pulled off a 1-2 to open the meet in the 200 medley relay with Stuart and Andreas Schiellerup leading both leading off under 22.3 to get the Wolfpack out in front. Ryan Held (19.57 anchor) sealed the deal for the ‘A’ squad in 1:27.05, with North Carolina’s ‘A’ team sneaking in for second in 1:28.36, thanks to a quick 20.73 fly leg from individual All-American Sam Lewis. The Wolfpack ‘B’ touched just behind in 1:28.42.
Back-to-back-to-back 1-2 finishes in the next three events swung momentum completely in NC State’s direction. Ipsen ran away with the 1000 (9:01.78), with teammate Adam Linker (9:10.01) edging past Virginia freshman Sam Magnan (9:13.74) over the final 300 yards. Ipsen and Linker later repeated their finish in the 500 free, touching in 4:24.96 and 4:27.98, respectively. NC State undoubtedly has one of, if not ‘the’, best sprint freestyle group in the country, but coach Braden Holloway is really building some depth in the distance events.
The 1-2 torch was then passed to Dahl (1:36.79) and Simonas Bilis (1:37.27), the fly legs on the Wolfpack relays two events prior, for the 200 free. While Bilis and UNC’s Will DeForest (1:37.60) closed faster, Dahl’s third 50 (24.4) proved to be the difference. Dahl would later come back to lead a 1-2-3-4 sweep in the 200 IM for NC State, touching in 1:49.05.
Stuart and Schiellerup were next to the plate in the 100 back. Nic Graesser of North Carolina flipped right with Stuart at the 50 (both 23.0’s), but Stuart had too much in the tank, getting the win in 47.40. Schiellerup closed quickly to touch dead even with Graesser in 48.26. Stuart, a sophomore from Denver, Colorado and one of the nation’s most underrated backstrokers, would later come back to crush the field by nearly four seconds in the 200 back (1:43.91).
Following Derek Hren’s win in the 100 breast (54.41) and Christian McCurdy’s narrow victory over Ben Colley of UNC in the 200 fly (1:46.16 to 1:46.36), Bilis and Held teamed up for another 1-2 finish in the 50 freestyle, both cracking the 20-second barrier in the process. Beginning with some huge drops this past summer, Held has really stepped up following the graduation of relay standout David Williams, and will look to be the cornerstone for NC State’s future once Bilis moves on this spring.
While they were largely overshadowed today, North Carolina and Virginia swam well in defeat. The Tarheels got two 1-2 finishes of their own, with Michael McBryan (2:01.02) and Kurt Wohlrab (2:02.14) taking the 200 breast, and Sam Lewis (47.41) and Ben Colley (48.36) claiming the 100 fly. The Wolfpack are the heavy favorites to be the top conference finisher at ACC’s and NCAA’s, but UNC has a slew of talent to keep things interesting and score some decent points at both meets. Virginia is rebuilding (there are just nine juniors and seniors on the roster), but senior breaststroker Yannick Kaeser (second in the 100 breast today) will challenge for top finishes at ACC’s, and freshman Sam Magnan is a good piece to build around.
While this was the final dual meet for Virginia and NC State prior to conferences, the Tarheels are back in action tomorrow, when they journey across town to take on the Duke Blue Devils.