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Freshman Ed Scott maintains control during the NC State match against West Virginia on Sunday, November 21, 2021 in Reynolds Coliseum. Scott won his individual match against the Mountaineers 22-8. The Pack beat the Mountaineers 34-6.

We’re just over halfway through the No. 5 NC State wrestling team’s dual season, and so far the team has performed as advertised. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned from the Wolfpack’s (6-1) nonconference schedule.

Early tests prove team’s talent

NC State’s already taken on three ranked opponents including then-No. 1 Iowa, going 2-1 in those matches and putting the Hawkeyes through easily their toughest test of the year. With victories over then-No. 10 Missouri and then-No. 19 Princeton, the Wolfpack’s new starters got a taste of tough dual environments while its veterans got a chance to sharpen up. 

Through duals like those, you get an early idea of who you can count on to step up when it matters. Four wrestlers were undefeated in those duals, three were veterans in No. 3 graduate Tariq Wilson, No. 4 graduate Hayden Hidlay and No. 3 redshirt sophomore Trent Hidlay. The other was No. 10 second-year freshman Ed Scott, who’s made a name for himself over the past few weeks. 

Ed Scott on a hot streak

Ranked No. 23 entering the Missouri contest, Scott’s vaulted himself into the top 10 with wins over then-No. 15, No. 8 and No. 5 ranked wrestlers at 157 pounds. Those victories included a huge pin of Iowa’s Kaleb Young which tightened the team score. At 14-0 on the year, Scott’s shown that he’s a dangerous wrestler no matter who he’s up against and has really come into his own since moving up to 157. He’ll have a chance to rack up a fourth straight ranked win against Virginia Tech’s No. 23 Connor Brady come next Friday.

Weight-changers reaping the benefits

Scott is far from the only wrestler who changed weights this off-season. Hayden Hidlay is thriving at 174 and the same is true for Wilson at 149. The two are a combined 12-0 on the year including two wins over ranked opponents. Elsewhere in the lineup, freshman Ryan Jack moved up to 141 from 133, and redshirt freshman Kai Orine moved from 141 to 133, and both are now starters for the Wolfpack with respective records of 11-3 and 7-1. Of the four losses, three came against ranked opponents. At heavyweight, junior former 197-pounder Tyrie Houghton’s made a splash as of late, taking over starting duties but going just 1-2 in the team’s last three duals.

Still looking for answers at heavyweight

In football, they say if you have two quarterbacks you have none. The same must be true for having three listed starters at a given weight. Houghton, redshirt freshman Owen Trephan and junior Deonte Wilson are all considered starters and no single wrestler looks like he can separate from the others. This isn’t new for head coach Pat Popolizio, but one would’ve hoped that Deonte Wilson would take the next step after his encouraging performances last year. To that end, Wilson does have the best record of the three, but he’s appeared in the least amount of bouts. 

Whether it’s Deonte Wilson or one of the other wrestlers, someone’s got to step up and take over the job, and fast. Virginia Tech’s No. 13 Nathan Traxler awaits.

Conference play begins with a bang

The road to a fourth straight ACC Championship banner begins Friday, Jan. 21 as NC State hosts No. 8 Virginia Tech, the last conference team to defeat it in a stunner which broke the nation’s longest dual win streak. Now the Wolfpack gets to avenge that loss as a team, but it won’t come easy. The Hokies have No. 21 Sam Latona at 125, No. 5 Korbin Myers at 133, No. 7 Bryce Andonian at 149, Brady, No. 3 Mekhi Lewis at 174, No. 13 Hunter Bolen at 184 and Traxler. 

That’s seven of 10 wrestlers ranked inside the top 25, meaning this will be an extremely competitive match. Tariq Wilson, Scott and the Hidlays have to take care of business, but that alone won’t be enough. There’s plenty of wrestlers who could step up to get the Pack over the edge against the Hokies, but my money’s on No. 11 redshirt sophomore Jakob Camacho. Throw away the rankings; Camacho’s lost to Latona twice in a row, once to lose the dual in 2021 and again in the ACC Championship at 125. This is a matchup he can ill afford to be on the wrong end of again.

Editor-in-Chief

I'm Jaylan Harrington, Editor-in-Chief at Technician. I'm in NC State's class of 2022 majoring in communication. I've been at Technician since the fall of 2018. For more of my coverage, you can follow me @jaylan__1 on Twitter.