The NC State wrestling team took on Tobacco Road rival North Carolina inside Reynolds Coliseum Friday night for the first ever top-ten matchup between the two teams. The Wolfpack (13-0, 3-0 ACC) is coming off its first-ever road win against No. 10 Pittsburgh to continue the school’s second-best start in school history. The Pack came away with a 19-14 win in the dual meet, winning its seventh straight against Chapel Hill (11-2, 2-1 ACC) with first place in the ACC in the balance.
4,384 fans showed up inside Reynolds, the largest crowd for a wrestling dual meet inside the coliseum. The noise was clearly a factor in the matchup, with several wrestlers soaking in the atmosphere. The win was massive for the Pack, as it remains one of two undefeated teams in the nation.
“This was awesome,” said NC State head coach Pat Popolizio. “For your casual fan to be here and see this, this is what my vision of what college wrestling should be like. Having the opportunity to be in some great arenas with good crowds, this was as good a place as I have ever been.”
As one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the night, No. 11 redshirt junior Tariq Wilson faced No. 10 Zach Sherman in the 141-pound match. The match started with a scoreless first, with Wilson picking up only one point in the second after an escape, giving Wilson a 1-0 lead going into the third. With two swipes in the third, partnered by a pair of two-point near falls, Wilson solidified a 6-0 victory over his top 10 opponent.
“Right now it doesn't even feel like it’s a rivalry,” Tariq Wilson said. “It’s just them coming down here trying to prove that they have caught up or that they have some firepower. I don’t feel like it’s a rivalry at all. It’s just us showing we are a tougher team, we are more focused, and down the stretch we have done it repeatedly over the years.”
No. 2 redshirt junior Hayden Hidlay picked up his seventh ranked win of the season by defeating No. 15 A.C. Headlee. With a takedown and two swipes in the first, Hidlay led over Headlee 4-1 going into the second period of the 152-pound match. Riding out the second, the match entered the third still holding the score at 4-1. With an escape towards the beginning and a takedown and stall towards the end, Hidlay received the 9-2 decision.
No. 10 redshirt junior Thomas Bullard was held out of the dual meet at the last minute, sporting a small injury. Redshirt freshman Tyler Barnes took his place in the 165-pound match, taking on the tall task of going up against UNC’s No. 16 Kennedy Monday. Monday dominated Barnes in the match, getting a 20-5 tech fall, giving the Tar Heels their first lead of the meet, at 11-9.
“[Thomas Bullard]’s clearing off of an injury from last week,” Popolizio said. “[Bullard] could’ve went, but we feel like we had a really good option with Barnes and it’s not the outcome we were looking for in the fight, so it was a little disappointing, but we plan on Thomas [Bullard] being in the lineup next week and we are gonna need him against another great Virginia Tech team.”
No. 3 redshirt sophomore Trent Hidlay defeated Joey Mazzara in the 184 matchup to give the Pack the lead once again. With three takedowns in the first and two more takedowns in the third, Hidlay gave NC State a 13-5 major decision.
Interestingly, the Pack decided to return No. 20 redshirt junior Nick Reenan for the 197 match, who seemed to still be bothered by his knee injury, sporting a brace. Reenan spent most of his bout on the ground, losing the bout 6-0, in a bout that could have clinched the match for the Pack, narrowing the Pack’s lead to two points heading into the final bout.
The dual came down to the final match of the night, as Deonte Wilson went up against Andrew Gunning in the 285. With all the pressure of the rivalry sitting in, Wilson surmounted the tension, and came up with a takedown to end the second period, and a clutch takedown with 11 seconds left in the final period of the final match, to clinch the meet for the Pack.
“I just didn’t let the pressure get to me,” Deonte Wilson said. “I already saw that coming right after 197, that it was going to come down to me, but we prepared for this, it’s all or nothing, I have to give it my everything like I do every match.”
Deonte Wilson’s big night caused a complete uproar in Reynolds, showcasing just how many fans were in attendance. Deonte Wilson showed that the team is full of fight from beginning to end, and continued the win streak over Chapel Hill, and gave the Pack its second straight ranked win.
“[Deonte]’s ability and his improvements have gained a lot of confidence with his coaching staff and with him,” Popolizio said. “But again you don’t know what you are going to get in this atmosphere, when you get in an intense dual, dual is on the line, the crowd’s into it and it’s our first encounter in that. He kept his composure and got the win.”
The Wolfpack will next take on the No. 7 Virginia Tech Hokies inside Reynolds on Friday, Feb. 14. The atmosphere is once again expected to be great, as this is the third straight ranked dual meet for the Pack. The first match is set for 7 p.m., and can be viewed on ACC Network.