Graduate student Austin O’Connor returned to the top of the podium for the second time in his Tar Heel career, defeating No. 2 Levi Haines of Penn State by decision, 6-2, to claim the 157-pound national championship at the 2023 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
For O’Connor, the Lockport, Illinois, product brings home the gold for the second time in his legendary North Carolina career, also winning the 149-title in 2021.
After a scoreless opening period, O’Connor deferred, and Penn State’s Haines chose bottom to begin the second period. Another scoreless period ensued in the second, however, O’Connor was able to collect nearly a minute of riding time.
With Haines starting on top to begin the third, O’Connor would collect an escape to begin the final period. O’Connor would add two more takedowns in the period, followed by two Haines’ escapes. In the end, O’Connor would add another tally with riding time, to secure the championship.
For the Tar Heel wrestling program, O’Connor becomes the second in program history to win multiple national championships, joining T.J. Jaworsky who completed the three-peat from 1993 to 1995.
The tournament continues a stretch of outstanding results for Carolina at the national championships. O’Connor has become the program’s first five-time All-America honoree, the Tar Heels have posted multiple All-America wrestlers for five-straight years, and the National Finals has seen a Carolina wrestler compete on Saturday night the past three seasons.