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PackWrestle: 2021 Lightweight Preview

Peyton Williams/NCSU Athletics

“Winter is Coming.” The Starks promised it for 8 seasons of Game of Thrones, and so it came. Last March. When the pinnacle of the wrestling season was upon us - it was all taken away. Just like that. And this was such a long Winter. The longest in living memory. And it was oh, so cold. But alas, Summer has come again. The bitter sting of the Winter winds just a phantom memory - but also quite possibly, a forewarning of what could come again.

Pat Popolizio had what some might say was his best overall season as “The Skip” of the NC State wrestling program. The team finished a perfect 15-0 in dual meets, broke attendance records, and claimed their second straight ACC Tournament Championship. They were bringing tons of momentum up to Minneapolis for the NCAA Tournament, only for the tournament and season to be canceled one week before the mats were to be rolled out. Not the storybook ending most envisioned. It was the perfect opportunity to mope, and so I did. But that just isn’t in the chemistry of an elite wrestler. And the Pack’s star athlete, Hayden Hidlay took it as an opportunity to “double-down” for this year. Take a listen to the letter the three-time All-American wrote to his fellow NC State student athletes.

So here’s to hoping they get the chance! In this three-part preview series, we will take a look at the 2021 squad who will be aiming to capture their third straight ACC Tournament Championship. The Pack returns all ten of their starters from last year, plus bring in a handful of promising freshmen, so this should be fun!

125 Pounds

Jakob Camacho (R-So)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - #5

One of many bright spots for NC State last year was the lightest member of the squad. Jakob Camacho came to Raleigh with a reputation to live up to, and boy did he. He finished the season with a record of 20-6 and was in the FloWrestling rankings throughout his inaugural campaign. At times he did struggle with consistency, and that can be seen in his 2-4 record against Top 25 opposition, but he turned it on at ACCs when the stakes were the highest. In the finals, Camacho met up with Virginia’s Jack Mueller, a returning NCAA finalist, and someone who had beaten Jakob earlier in the season. But this wasn’t the same Jakob. The NC State freshman took it to the Cavalier and posted a shocking 10-4 upset to take home the title at 125. This stunner also earned him Most Outstanding Wrestler of the ACC Tournament.

It’s a shame last year couldn’t be completed for many reasons, but possibly #1 is that we didn’t get to see Camacho build off of his ACC Tournament performance. Look for him to carry that chip on his shoulder into this year. As mentioned above, probably the main thing I would like to see Jakob improve on from last year is his consistency. If he can do that, he will be one of the strongest cogs in a very formidable NC State lineup.

The top spot at 125 is still held by Spencer Lee of Iowa, and I don’t see that changing, but with the Ivy League canceling winter sports - and thus the removal of Princeton’s Pat Glory and Cornell’s Vito Arujau from the rankings - that #2 spot is up for grabs. Camacho is certainly a favorite to take that, if he can stay healthy.

133 Pounds

Jarrett Trombley (R-So)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - #20

Like with 125, Popolizio rolled out another redshirt-freshman at 133 last season. Jarrett Trombley won the job early on, and never let it go. He posted a 20-9 record and finished 4th at ACCs in what was a very deep weight class. It was an impressive debut for Trombley, and he also provided one of the highlights of the championship campaign when he iced the Virginia Tech dual with this first period pin.

What we need now from the rising sophomore, is a step up. Jarrett was consistent in 2020, but lacked the big wins that Camacho was able to capture. If Trombley can elevate his game another notch and move into the top 15 of this weight, it may be enough to push the Pack to a second team trophy (top 4 finish) at NCAAs in March.

One guy to keep your eye on is redshirt-freshman Kai Orine. He put together a nice redshirt season, going 20-6. He was the #49 rated recruit on FloWrestling’s 2019 Big Board and will be pushing Trombley for the starting spot. Even if he does not end up dethroning Jarrett, with the NCAA declaring that this season will not count towards eligibility, you can probably bet that he will see some action.

141 Pounds

Tariq Wilson (R-Sr)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - #14

Tariq is one of five starters from that vaunted #1 rated 2016 recruiting class entering into their senior season. And aside from Hayden Hidlay, Wilson is the most decorated. His 3rd place finish at NCAAs in 2018 remains his peak, but we hope to see him reclaim some of that form this coming season. Last year, our hope for Tariq was that he would find more consistency in his results, and unfortunately that didn’t quite come to fruition. He had some head-scratching losses and inconsistent performances. Yet he still put together an impressive 24-6 record and finished as ACC runner-up at 141 pounds.

Perhaps we can chalk it up to adjusting to the new weight, but we again want to see more consistency from Tariq this year. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times - when Tariq is pushing the pace and attacking at a high volume, he is a title contender. If he allows his competition to lull him into a one-takedown match, then we will continue to see him drop matches he shouldn’t. Tariq is one of my favorites, so maybe I’m overly critical, but I hope he can put it together for his senior season, even if it doesn’t end up being his final one in a Pack singlet.

A guy to watch at this weight is true freshman, Ryan Jack. The younger brother of former Pack wrestler, and three-time All-American Kevin Jack, Ryan comes to Raleigh with a bigger target on his back. He was a four-time Connecticut state champion, two-time Connecticut Wrestler of the Year, won NHSCAs in 2019, and was a finalist at the toughest high school wrestling tournament, Super 32, in 2018. All of these credentials earned him the #46 ranking on FloWrestling’s Class of 2020 Big Board. I’m not sure he’s ready to usurp a guy like Tariq at this point, but he will certainly provide good depth and could see some action if needed. He definitely has a very bright future, even if it doesn’t begin this season.

Stay tuned for the Middleweights, which will drop next week. We’ve got an official schedule now, so it’s time to start cranking these out!

Go Pack!