Hayden Hidlay, a 157-pound redshirt junior, fights to get the upper hand against his UNC-CH opponent at the wrestling match on Friday, Feb. 7 at Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack saw record attendence with over 4,300 atendees.

With the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel getting closer every day, for NC State Athletics, it will come in the form of something more than just a return to normalcy: extended eligibility.

Due to the odd athletic season every collegiate athlete saw this year, the NCAA has decided to extend an extra year of eligibility for all 2020-2021 winter and fall athletes, regardless of if their team played or not. By doing so, this has given some athletes a fifth year of eligibility and in some cases, a sixth.

So what does this mean for the Wolfpack? It means we will see a large percentage of senior starters and leaders returning to their respective sports for one last season of competition, giving the team an edge through the returning experienced athletes.

Benefiting greatly from the extended eligibility will be NC State wrestling. With the 2016 No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, four of those seniors will be returning to the mat for one last season. 

This includes redshirt seniors Thomas Bullard, Nick Reenan, Tariq Wilson and Hayden Hidlay. Between the four, they have qualified for nationals 15 times, won five ACC titles and received eight All-American honors. Hidlay has announced he will be moving up to the 174 weight class to compete in the 2022 season, wrestling closer in weight with his brother, national runner-up redshirt sophomore Trent Hidlay.

Pack wrestling is not the only powerhouse getting its stars back. Top-seeded women’s basketball ended the season with three starters scheduled to depart from the Pack. However, due to NCAA’s new eligibility, we will see all three on the court next season. 

Graduate student Raina Perez and seniors Kai Crutchfield and Kayla Jones will be coming back looking for an ACC Tournament three-peat, as well as another NCAA run. With these three starters returning, NC State women’s basketball loses none of its rotation, and will come into the 2022 season with more talent and experience than ever.

With many seasons just ending, many senior athletes have yet to make their decision on returning. Redshirt senior Devon Daniels has yet to announce his decision for his future career at NC State after missing half of his season after tearing his ACL against Wake Forest back in January. Daniels left the men’s basketball team this season as its leading scorer halfway through the year. 

With the opportunity for our veteran athletes to return for one last run, NC State will see a bright and successful year starting next fall. While this pandemic has been difficult for everyone, we can only hope that next year we can be back in our arenas, cheering on our super seniors for one last time with a proper goodbye.