The Wolfpacker

July 2016

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 119 of 163

118 ■ THE WOLFPACKER The result was Snyder's bread-and-butter low single and a takedown with 23 seconds left to tie it up. Regulation ended with Snyder hanging on to his opponent's ankle for dear life from his belly and all 19,000 inside of the "World's Most Famous Arena" on their feet. The match was not over yet, but it had already lived up to the considerable billing. It brought The Garden alive like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier's Fight of the Century — the first time two undefeated heavyweights fought for boxing's world title — held 45 years prior in the same venue. Gwiazdowski-Snyder was this sport's — and possibly this generation's, given the de- mise of boxing — Fight of the Century. Like its predecessor, the grapplers went the dis- tance and left nobody disappointed. The Wolfpacker shot first in sudden-victory overtime, but this time the scramble ended with a Snyder reshot and takedown. Although Gwiazdowski lost 7-5, he delivered one of the greatest NCAA championship matches ever. "That was the best heavyweight match any of us has ever seen," Quint Kessenich said on ESPN, moments after the final whistle. "I think we just saw two of the greatest heavyweights in the NCAA modern era," Tim Johnson agreed. "It's one of the most epic heavyweight bat- tles of recent memory," Bryant added. "It was against a world champ coming up a weight class, bucking his redshirt. You've got to say it was probably disappointing for Gwiazdowski to not win the third title and enter that rarified air, but I think it was part of something bigger with the energy behind wrestling at Madi- son Square Garden. … If somebody asked me what's the best heavyweight finals match you've ever seen, I can easily point to that." The historic bout led ESPN's SportsCenter that night. It earned a mention from Mike Golic on the network's popular morning show "Mike and Mike" the following Monday. It was proof that Gwiazdowski's reach went beyond the NC State realm or simply the wrestling community. "I put on this big show, and I just wasn't on the right end of it," he said three months later. "I received nothing but positives from it, and it's kind of cool to get that much positive out of it, even from losing." Still Building Gwiazdowski was composed in the imme- diate aftermath of the match. It had been 807 days between college losses for Gwiazdowski — before meeting Snyder March 19, his last loss was Jan. 2, 2014. There was no question he was disap- pointed, but as he likes to say "there are no time machines" that allow him to change the past. Gwiazdowski has moved on, and now he is ready to attack the next challenge — inter- national wrestling. "I can say that every time I competed, I gave it 100 percent and held nothing back," he said. "When the success came and when it didn't come, I kept at the same level. "I've put it behind me a little bit and am working to get back to the top. I guess I'm al- ways chasing to be No. 1. That's the wrestling mindset — I'm in the prime of my athletic career so I want to keep building." He's already helped build something that will last at NC State, and he wouldn't mind seeing his title of best Wolfpack wrestler ever challenged. He'll be around to see it after deciding to stay in Raleigh to continue train- ing — he has finished one spot shy of making the U.S. National Team in freestyle wrestling each of the last four years. "In terms of NC State, I hope there are guys better than me," he said. "That'd be good suc- cess for the team and school, and I'd be in- volved with that also. I think what I did is good for those kids. Not only is there a plan in place, there's a guy you see every day [who followed it to a national title]. There were no All-Ameri- cans and national champions in the room when I was training. … Even with the coaches, [ath- letes] trust them more because they put some- one at the top; the system works." Gwiazdowski has proven that and more. Now he will help the next generation of Wolf- pack wrestlers try to eclipse his accomplish- ments in front of its newfound fan base, all while working his own way back up to the top. ■ Here are the top 10 male athletes during the 2015‑16 school year at NC State after Nick Gwiazdowski, The Wolfpacker's Male Athlete of the Year. 1. Simonas Bilis, Swimming The Lithuanian was the fourth to earn ACC Swimmer of the Year honors in con‑ secutive seasons and led the way for State's fourth‑place finish at the NCAA Champi‑ onships. He led the first national champi‑ onship‑winning relay in league history and posted top‑three finishes in three indi‑ vidual races en route to seven All‑America honors. At the ACC Championships, he claimed three individual crowns and was a part of three winning relays. 2. Jonathan Addison, Track and Field In addition to being part of the 4x100 relay team that finished seventh nationally, the senior from Raleigh placed second in the long jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships and fifth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 3. Ryan Held, Swimming The sophomore was another piece to the NCAA champion 400 freestyle relay squad. He also notched a trio of top‑10 individual finishes and helped three relays earn All‑America honors at the NCAA Championships. The Illinois native won a pair of individual titles at the ACC Championships and was on four gold‑medal relays. 4. Cat Barber, Basketball The unanimous All‑ACC selection averaged a league‑high 23.5 points per game for the eighth‑best clip in program history, and he also averaged 4.45 assists to rank fourth in the ACC. 5. Pete Renda, Wrestling NC State had three wrestling All‑Americans for the second time in program history, and Renda's third‑place showing at the NCAA Championships was impres ‑ sive. The junior 184‑pounder's only loss at nationals was to the reigning two‑time king, and he topped opponents seeded fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth to cap a 26‑8 campaign. 6. Joe Thuney, Football Thuney started all 13 games at left tackle, and USA Today named the Ohio native a first‑team All‑American, becoming the first NCSU blocker to earn that honor since 1979. The fifth‑year senior was then selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. 7. Anton Ipsen, Swimming The sophomore from Denmark swept the distance freestyle events at the ACC Championships for the second straight year, and went on to finish fifth and seventh in the 1,650 and 500 freestyle, respectively, at the NCAA Championships. 8. Tommy Gantt, Wrestling Gantt's regular‑season performance was even more impressive than his eighth‑ place finish at nationals. The redshirt senior entered the NCAA Championships undefeated at 157 pounds, helped the team capture the ACC title and finished 27‑3. Not bad for a guy who went 12‑13 as a freshman. 9. Preston Palmeiro, Baseball The son of MLB legend Rafael Palmeiro made a name for himself in Raleigh. The junior first baseman was a second‑team All‑ACC pick for the second straight year. He was the first Wolfpacker off the board in this summer's draft, going in the sev ‑ enth round to the Baltimore Orioles, but he has not signed yet. 10. Jaylen Samuels, Football The do‑it‑all sophomore finished with 16 touchdowns, which tied Torry Holt for the third‑best total in school history, and caught more passes than any other tight end in the country en route to All‑ACC honors. In addition to leading the team in receiving, the Charlotte product ranked third in rushing. — Ryan Tice Senior Simonas Bilis was named the ACC Swimmer of the Year for the second straight campaign. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS TOP 10 MALE ATHLETES

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