The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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110 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY RYAN TICE T he NC State wrestling team is coming off an ACC champion- ship season and in the midst of the best-ever stretch in its near 100-year history after six straight top-20 national finishes. However, it also enters the 2019-20 cam- paign with a chip on its collective shoulder. Star captain and redshirt junior 157 - pounder Hayden Hidlay is coming off his lowest NCAA placement yet (fourth) and lost more times at just the NCAA Cham- pionships last year (twice) than he did as a redshirt freshman (once). The two-time All-American enters the campaign ranked No. 1 nationally by all outlets. Classmate Nick Reenan is moving up a weight class, to 197, and still looking for his first All-America honor (top-eight finish at the NCAA Championships). He's also coming off a torn ACL, suffered last December, but had arguably the best 2018 summer in all of college wrestling, when he won the U.S. World Team Trials and was beaten domestically only by eventual world champion David Taylor at Final X. Reenan carried that momentum into last season and posted a pair of top-six vic- tories before the injury, but he continued to wrestle afterwards and NC State math- ematically wouldn't have won the ACC last year without him. Fellow redshirt junior Tariq Wilson is also moving up in weight, to 141, and coming off a disappointing and injury-filled season after he was the darling of the 2018 NCAA Championships, when he came out of no- where to place third. He lost in quadruple overtime of the "blood round" at the NCAA Championships last year, one win shy of his second straight All-America honors. It doesn't end there. The Bullard twins — redshirt juniors Thomas (165) and Daniel (174) — were top-50 recruits and are still trying to break through in college on a na- tional level, but both must fend off competi- tion from teammates for the starting spots. The newcomers to the lineup, headlined by 184-pound redshirt freshman Trent Hid- lay and 125-pound classmate Jakob Cama- cho, will be looking to prove themselves, and according to eighth-year head coach Pat Popolizio all are good enough to con- tend for All-America honors, particularly the aforementioned rookies. The result is this is the year NC State wrestling has been building towards for a long time — and it doesn't have a single grappler in his senior year of eligibility. "I know what we're going to have this year. I know we're going to be ultra-com- petitive," Popolizio said. "It doesn't mean we're going to win everything, but no mat- ter what goes on, these guys are going to compete at an extremely high level and not be satisfied with anything but perfection. "It's fun to watch this group work out because they're so competitive. Workouts become crazy intense because somebody is trying to win something all the time. We've had guys do it in the past, but we've never had 20 guys trying to do it like we do now. "When you mix that with the work ethic and talent, and add that to some disappoint- ment from last year's results, these guys have a chip on their shoulders right now. They're pissed off, which I think is good energy." In addition to the elder Hidlay, who was one win away from an NCAA gold medal as a redshirt freshman, Popolizio contends he has four others "that can compete to win a national title" — Reenan, Wilson, Trent Hidlay and Camacho. "Right now, all five of them, I would expect to finish their career with a title," he continued. "That doesn't mean all five are going to be able to do it this year, but RELOADED AND READY After An Injury-Filled Rebuilding Season — Which Still Included An ACC Title — The Wolfpack Has Its Sights Set High Redshirt junior 157-pounder Hayden Hidlay finished second nationally as a redshirt freshman and placed fourth last year while losing to eventual three-time champion Jason Nolf in controversial fashion. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS WRESTLING PREVIEW

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