Don’t be surprised if this 21-year-old North Carolina freshman helps push the Tar Heels into dark horse contention.
Lachlan McNeil comes into the 2023 wrestling season as a legitimate threat to the 141-pound division after spending the last three years as a member of Canada’s Senior World Team. McNeil was already one of the most highly touted prospects in the sport at 18, but after spending time competing with the best names in the sport, McNeil has astronomical expectations for himself.
“If I was 18, maybe my expectations would be too high. I took two years off and competed against the best in the world this year. The only three losses I took in the past eight months have been to guys who took top eight in the Senior World Championships; ones that took third, fifth and eighth in the Senior World Championships. These were all two-point matches, one-point matches, so I know where I stand with all the top guys.”
McNeil doesn’t bluntly speak about National Championship expectations to will it into existence or to play the role of “the driven guy,” but with an open field at 141 pounds and the confidence built up from spending his gap years putting the best in the sport on their backs, it absolutely is championship or bust.
“There’s a lot of high expectations for me this year; it’s just a matter of me meeting them,” McNeil said. “The expectation is to be a National Champ and there’s nothing outside of that.”
As much buzz as there is around him, the unrelenting pressure is almost completely self-appointed. Sure, media, coaches and fans see a high ceiling for McNeil, but with what he feels to be the greatest North Carolina team ever assembled, McNeil sees this as a season where everybody can and should exceed the hype.
If iron sharpens iron, this could be the sharpest UNC team of all-time and McNeil is ready to lead from the front if he needs to.
“If I took 5th or 6th for them as a freshman, I’m sure to my coaches and everybody it would be a good season, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ll only be smiling at the end of this year if I’m standing on the top of the podium and nothing else,” McNeil said.
The journey to a possible Cinderella run to March for McNeil and the Tar Heels begins at Battle At Bragg on UFC FIGHT PASS.
Catch Battle At Bragg Friday, November 11, LIVE from the historic Fort Bragg, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!