No. 4 NC State wrestling opens conference play in Charlottesville, Virginia as it takes on the Cavaliers this Friday. With an abbreviated nonconference schedule, this is just the third dual of the year for the Wolfpack (2-0) and the second for Virginia (1-0).
Recent history has not been kind to Virginia in this matchup. NC State has won six straight against it, including a 28-9 victory in 2020.
This is not that same Virginia team, though, it’s worse. Gone is Jack Mueller, a top-five wrestler at 125 pounds, whom redshirt sophomore Jakob Camacho upset to win an ACC title. Mueller was the top talent on the team, and one of just two Virginia wrestlers to take a bout against NC State last year.
The other, No. 3 197-pound Jay Aiello, returns and will be a major test for redshirt senior Nick Reenan. Reenan injury defaulted in their last matchup, but with a 2-0 start, which includes a pin against App State this season, Reenan may be able to keep things competitive.
Besides Aiello, Virginia has just one other wrestler ranked higher than their NC State counterpart in No. 13 Louie Hayes, who wrestles at 133 pounds. He’ll face No. 16 redshirt sophomore Jarrett Trombley in a rematch of last year’s bout, which ended in a 4-2 decision in Trombley’s favor.
There’s a couple more ranked matchups that could prove interesting, starting at 165 pounds. No. 10 redshirt senior Thomas Bullard drew No. 19 Jake Keating. Keating redshirted last year as he moved up in weight and had a ranked win over the 11th-best wrestler at his weight.
Bullard’s coming off an upset loss against an unranked wrestler, so a win isn’t something to be penciled in. He should, however, come into this bout with something to prove.
At heavyweight, it’s No. 17 junior Deonte Wilson and No. 19 Quinn Miller. Wilson took a comfortable 5-1 decision in their last dual matchup, an upset at the time, and should be favored to take this one as well.
Keep an eye on Ed Scott, the starting 149-pound true freshman. He lost a tight decision to No. 10 Jonathan Millner last week after taking a hard blow, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds against less challenging competition in Denton Spencer, who A.J. Leitten bested by a point last year.
Another card in the hand of head coach Pat Popolizio is No. 4 Trent Hidlay, who’s been out so far this season. According to NC State Athletics, he had an appendectomy and, as of last Thursday, was expected to be back this week.
So long as Bullard regains his mojo, and we see no surprises at 285 or 133 pounds, NC State should travel back to Raleigh at 1-0 in ACC play.
Virginia hosts NC State Jan. 15, with the first match starting at 5 p.m. The match will be streamed via ACC Network Extra. Follow @TechSports on Twitter for our coverage of the contest.