Redshirt senior No. 22 Jamel Morris, redshirt sophomore No. 4 Hayden Hidlay and redshirt senior No. 19 Malik McDonald all won ACC titles for NC State wrestling en route to the team’s ACC championship. The Wolfpack sent 10 wrestlers to Blacksburg, Virginia, and nine of them had podium finishes.
With a dominant cumulative record of 22-8, the Wolfpack scored 93.5 team points. Second-place Virginia Tech fell just shy with 86 points as NC State won its second ACC title in the last four years.
The Wolfpack went 6-0 in its quarterfinal matches, highlighted by redshirt sophomore No. 5 Nick Reenan’s last second victory over No. 27 Will Schany in the 3/6 seed matchup at 184 pounds. Schaney scored a takedown in the final minute to gain an 8-7 advantage with riding time, but as Schaney let off the gas, Reenan scored a massive takedown and two-point near fall with three seconds left in the match, winning an 11-8 decision.
Six of the 10 Wolfpack wrestlers won their semifinal matches, though not all without controversy. At 197 pounds, McDonald took on Virginia Tech’s No. 11 Tom Sleigh in a 3/2 seed matchup. Tied 2-2 with under 10 seconds left, Sleigh was issued his second stalling penalty for not fighting to stay inbounds, and a point was awarded to McDonald to the dismay of the home Hokie crowd. McDonald advanced to the championship bout with a 3-2 decision.
Losses sent four wrestlers to the consolation bracket, and all four made it to the third-place match. Graduate 149-pounder No. 7 Justin Oliver, who won his NCAA Championships berth with a win in the consolation semifinals, beat Virginia Tech’s No. 29 Ryan Blees 6-1. Redshirt sophomore 174 pounder No. 21 Daniel Bullard won a 18-3 technical fall over UNC’s Devin Kane to clinch his NCAA Championships berth. Freshman heavyweight Deonte Wilson fell to Virginia Tech’s Billy Miller 6-2 and will miss out on the NCAA Championships.
Reenan tweaked his right leg injury during his semifinal to Pitt’s No. 9 Nino Bonaccorsi, and it bothered him throughout the rest of the ACC Championships. During his third-place match against UNC-Chapel Hill’s No. 14 Chip Ness, Reenan was in visible pain and struggled to rise to his feet whenever the wrestlers reset to center mat. Still, he gutted out an impressive 12-8 decision and clinched an NCAA Championships berth.
The Wolfpack struggled in its early championship bouts. At 125 pounds, redshirt senior No. 11 Sean Fausz took on Virginia’s No. 5 Jack Mueller. Fausz, the defending 125 ACC champion, struggled to defend against Muller’s takedowns, and fell in a 10-2 major decision.
Redshirt sophomore No. 11 Tariq WIlson took on Pitt’s No. 5 Micky Phillippi. After two low-scoring periods, Phillippi scored a takedown and fended off Wilson’s last second efforts to win the 133 crown, 4-1.
In his first 141-pound championship, Morris opened up his matchup against Virginia Tech’s No. 25 Mitch Moore with a takedown and two-point near fall. Taking a 6-2 lead 30 seconds into the third, Morris weathered relentless pressure from Moore to reverse the Wolfpack’s earlier fortunes and win his first ACC title.
Hidlay defended his 157-pound crown against Pitt’s No. 11 Taleb Rahmani. Hidlay took a 2-1 lead into the second period, and Rahmani tied things up with an escape. With a 5-2 lead in the third period, Hidlay took Rahmani down one last time and won a 8-2 decision to remain the king at 157. Hidlay is only the third Wolfpack wrestler to win back-to-back ACC championships since 2010.
At 165 pounds, Virginia Tech’s top seeded No. 8 Mekhi Lewis opened up his championship bout with two takedowns of third-seeded No. 18 Thomas Bullard. Bullard closed the gap to two points going into the third period, but Lewis secured a double-leg takedown to win a 7-4 decision.
McDonald rounded out the championship contenders for NC State, wrestling Virginia’s No. 7 Jay Aiello for the 197-pound championship. Aiello pinned McDonald in their regular season meeting, but this was not the same Malik McDonald.
For the second time of the day, NC State was rewarded for wrestling until the whistle as McDonald took Aiello down in the waning seconds of the second period to gain a 6-4 advantage. Holding a 6-5 lead with a minute remaining in the match, McDonald took Aiello’s back and secured a takedown along with a two-point near fall, ultimately winning 13-6 and becoming the ACC’s champion at 197 pounds.
With three ACC champions and the team conference title, the Wolfpack begins its postseason with momentum. Nine wrestlers will travel to Pittsburgh for the NCAA Championships on March 21-23.