The Wolfpacker

March-April 2020 issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 43 of 51

44 ■ THE WOLFPACKER Though, like Hayden, Trent redshirted his first year on campus, he went 24-2 in open tournaments. The losses came against a pair of wrestlers who at that time had both already claimed two finishes among the nation's top eight to become All-Ameri- cans. The defeats were by a combined three points, and one came in what is essentially quadruple overtime. The freshman won the other five tournaments he entered, including the last two at 184 pounds after starting the year at 174. After that, Hidlay finally got a chance to compete at Reynolds Coliseum — though still not in an official capacity for NC State. He won the Junior World Team Trials in Raleigh in May to earn a chance to repre- sent the United States at the Junior World Championships in Estonia in August 2019, where he went 4-1 to earn a bronze medal, outscoring foes 35-1 in his four wins and falling only by a 4-3 decision. Despite being ranked in the teens by al- most all media outlets when the college season started in November, it didn't take long for Hidlay to vault into everybody's top five. After opening 4-0, he put the nation on notice by beating a pair of opponents then ranked among the top five nationally — on the same day. On Nov. 23, NC State did an unusual doubleheader where they traveled to wrestle powerhouse Cornell at 1 p.m., then hopped in vans for an hour-long commute to com- pete at Binghamton at 7 p.m. Hidlay's oppo- nents that day were, according to the rank- ings at the time: No. 3 Ben Darmstadt, who was an All-American up a weight class at 197 pounds two years prior, and No. 4 Lou DePrez, who had finished one win shy of All-America honors at 184 in 2019. After beating Darmstadt with a 7-5 de- cision, Hidlay pulled out a 2-1 victory in overtime over DePrez. In the eyes of some national rankers, Hid- lay had finally arrived. In the view of oth- ers, it was more like he was performing as expected. Head coach Pat Popolizio said before the season about Hidlay: "He brings a mental- ity; he's fearless. That's what we need right now in this program — someone that is fearless and not afraid to win right away. He's not afraid to say he wants to win." It didn't take long before the coach noted Trent was on the same level of importance as big brother for his ability to lead and infuse teammates with confidence. Popolizio saw it early in preseason work- outs. At one point, when coaches were pushing the individuals to what had been the limit in years past, Trent asked his coach: Are you going to turn the heat up on us today? "He wanted us to make it even harder, and I'm like, 'You aren't all there, are you?'" Popolizio recalled with a laugh. "These guys are winners," he said of the Hidlays. "You can see it, feel it — there's something different. You just walk into practice and the energy level is there, but the guys are having fun doing it." Hidlay has not been able to replicate his big brother's debut campaign and finish the regular season unscathed. But he has gone 22-3 and faced arguably the tough- est schedule of anybody on the Wolfpack roster. He lost only to two-time national champion Zahid Valencia, once to DePrez to give the two a split on the year and to Vir- ginia Tech's Hunter Bolen, who is ranked No. 2 nationally. In addition to Darmstadt and DePrez, Hidlay has beaten Northern Iowa's Taylor Lujan, ranked No. 3 nationally at the time, and Pittsburgh's Nino Bonaccorsi, who was listed at No. 7. Hidlay was one of six Wolfpackers listed among the top eight nationally in the NCAA's Feb. 9 RPI, which is based on re- sults and strength of schedule — but adding a match against the No. 2-ranked wrestler in his weight class five days later probably would move his level of competition up a few notches to be the toughest on the team. "That's why he's ranked where he's at," Popolizio said of the challenging slate Hid- lay has faced. "He can handle that grind of high-level competition, and lives for it. "There will be no surprises when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. He'll know ex- actly what he needs to do and that he can beat anybody in the country at any given time." "When I was recruited here, the mes- sage was we want to be national champi- ons," Hidlay added. "You're not going to be able to do that if you're wrestling lower-tier guys. The coaches made a great schedule, and I was able to see top guys throughout the season. "I think it's great. I want to wrestle the top guys. I wish every week I could have a top-10 guy. That's what we came here to NC State to do — beat the top guys and be national champs." In addition to all of the on-mat accom- plishments from Hidlay, who enters the postseason as the nation's No. 3-ranked 184-pounder by most outlets, he also boasts a flawless track record in the classroom — a 4.0 GPA — and is respected enough by his peers that he was elected team captain. "The message to me coming in was it's never too early to be a leader and a staple of the program," Hidlay noted. He has done that and more, although he hasn't been able to sneak up on anybody since that November day in New York. Hid- lay has continued to prove himself as one of the nation's best collegiate wrestlers, NOT WAITING Redshirt Freshman Trent Hidlay Is Already One Of The Nation's Best Wrestlers BY RYAN TICE I t was no secret that Trent Hidlay was going to be good when he officially moved into NC State's wrestling lineup. The younger brother of Wolfpack star 157-pounder Hayden Hidlay — who as a redshirt freshman never lost until the NCAA finals — came to college as a consensus top-25 recruit nationally.

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