No. 5 NC State wrestling opened its dual season with a 34-6 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Sunday, Nov. 21. After unveiling its 2021 ACC Championship banner for the Reynolds crowd, the team quickly got to business taking all but two bouts, and scoring bonus points in six of them.
“Nice having fans in here,” said head coach Pat Popolizio. “We’re definitely lacking conditioning right now but we know that. It's November and we want to be healthy and ready when the season progresses. Liked what we saw out of some of the younger guys that were in our lineup for the first time and just got to get the jitters out of them.”
This is a new NC State. The team showed off three new starters and had two returning wrestlers shifting weights. That didn’t matter too much. While the fresh faces generally performed worse than returning starters, they went 2-1 and all looked competitive.
Kicking things off at 125 pounds, No. 9 redshirt sophomore Jakob Camacho took on Colton Drousias. Drousias is not the Mountaineers’ typical starter at that weight, but with No. 8 Killian Cardinale out, things were much less interesting than they could’ve been. Camacho was kept mostly at bay through the first period, but racked up 12 points in the final two periods to cruise to a 14-4 major decision.
Next, No. 17 redshirt freshman Kai Orine took on Garett Lautzenheiser, and the 133-pounders came to wrestle. Orine got up on his opponent early with a takedown and escape in the first two, then held off Lautzenheiser’s advances to end the match with a close 4-1 decision. Popolizio repeatedly told Orine to take chances in the closing moments of the match, and Orine did, taking Lautzenheiser down just seconds after the clock hit 0.
“We just want to keep putting points up and get better,” Popolizio said. “I don't want to be content trying to win a 3-1 match because we know the level of competition that we're looking to beat down the road is going to be at the best of their game. So we’ve got to continue to evolve and work our offense.”
At 141, No. 19 freshman Ryan Jack faced off against Caleb Rea. Jack got off to a hot start with three takedowns in the first period, but cooled off tremendously in the following stanzas. Rea did the opposite, coming on strong in the third, and even getting a takedown in the waning seconds to bring the score to within one, but it wasn’t enough to counter Jack’s early lead and Jack took a 8-7 decision.
NC State had a familiar face take over at 149 pounds, No. 3 graduate Tariq Wilson, and his matchup for Sunday was Jeffrey Boyd. Boyd held a size and power advantage, but Wilson’s experience and technique won him the bout as a steady performance led to a 13-4 major decision. Wilson, along with No. 5 graduate Hayden Hidlay, both moved up in weight for NC State this offseason. Typically that’s a double-edged sword, but perhaps not for veterans.
“Wrestling’s wrestling to those guys,” Popolizio said. “I think you see the speed is very good for both guys; Tariq’s scoring points without even touching guys. I know what they do in the weight room shows the strength [side] will never be an issue with those two.”
No. 31 freshman Ed Scott took the mat at 157 pounds, and within 30 seconds Alex Hornfeck was taken down. Both wrestlers were determined to finish the bout in the first, with Hornfeck taking a risky pin attempt which resulted in him getting reversed before Scott was much more successful in turning Hornfeck, getting a four point near fall. Up 13-5 midway through the second period, Scott poured it on, turning him in the second for two points en route to a 22-8 major decision.
At 165 pounds, No. 17 graduate Thomas Bullard and No. 16 Peyton Hall did not disappoint. After an initial feeling-out period, Bullard scored the lone point of the second via an escape. That lead wouldn’t last.
Hall gave West Virginia its first lead of the day with a reversal and stall point, but then Bullard tied things up with a reversal of his own. Hall escaped in the last minute to go up 4-3, and then took Bullard down with less than 30 seconds remaining to quiet the Reynolds crowd and take the match 6-3.
Hayden Hidlay looked no different at 174 pounds than he did at 157. In a dominant first period, he scored two takedowns and a four point near fall, taking a 8-2 lead into the second. The second was the same story, escape, takedown, takedown, four swipes, and Hayden Hidlay clinched the tech fall nearly as soon as the third period started, winning 20-3.
According to one of Hayden’s training partners, No. 3 redshirt sophomore Trent Hidlay, the 17-pound jump makes him much more dangerous.
“We usually train together a few times a week,” Trent Hidlay said. “It's a lot better now [that] he's up a few weights, that we can kinda wrestle without me thinking I'm going to hurt him. But it's always competitive… He's been kicking my butt for as long as I can remember without the weight advantage. So it's always fun to wrestle with him.”
Following Hayden Hidlay, blink and you would’ve missed it: Trent Hidlay made quick work of Anthony Carman, pinning him within 30 seconds.
“To be honest, it's the first pin I've had in a long time,” Trent Hidlay said. “The coaches always joke with me like, ‘Hey, when are you going to get a pin?’ So that was pretty cool, I haven't done that in a few years. But it was there and I was ready to rip it and luckily I got it pretty tight and got the fall. So I was really happy with that.”
No. 19 freshman Isaac Trumble got off to a hot start against Jackson Moomau via 6 points in near falls. The 197-pounder was held in check in the second, but turned it back on in the third with two four-point near falls to end the match at a 18-0 tech fall.
No. 20 redshirt freshman Owen Trephan couldn’t keep that momentum going, but did have an entertaining bout. After he took a lead early in the first, his opponent Michael Wolfgram had a strong second period, scoring two takedowns which gave him a lead Trephan couldn’t overcome, losing a 6-5 decision.
The Wolfpack has a small break before returning to Reynolds on Dec. 2, facing off against Gardner-Webb.