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PackWrestle 2019-20 Season Recap: Top 5 Moments

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2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship Photo by Justin K. Aller/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

On March 12, it was announced that the NCAA wrestling tournament was canceled due to the threat of COVID-19. Six weeks later, and I am just now beginning to come to terms with that decision. This is my favorite event of the year. Forget the Super Bowl, forget March Madness; this is my pinnacle - the days I countdown the entire year for. Everyone who knows me, knows that that Thursday-Saturday I go off the map. Don’t text me, don’t call me, don’t try to make plans with me, because I’m watching NCAAs all day. So to leave this season unfinished like it was, was a tough pill to swallow. And I’m only a fan. I can’t imagine what the athletes or coaches are going through. The hardships they are enduring as the result of this situation are both unique and heartbreaking. However, it is important to acknowledge the great successes these men enjoyed this season, and to not let the way things ended overshadow those moments.

This edition of the NC State wrestling team could be argued as the best ever. They finished the dual season undefeated (15-0) for the first time in school history. That included their third-straight ACC dual championship, going 5-0 against probably the strongest ACC field of all-time. Four of the six conference members finished in the top-10 of the final NWCA dual rankings, with the Pack leading the way at #3. They then capped the undefeated season off with an ACC title at the conference championships, qualifying eight wrestlers for the NCAA tournament that would never happen.

In a season full of awesome moments, I have put together my Top 5 below:

#5: Hoagie’s Big Weekend

Back in November, the Pack went on the road to New York where they would face Cornell and Binghamton in the same day. From a team perspective, this wasn’t too challenging of a task. However, for stud freshman Trent Hidlay this was about as difficult of a weekend as you could ask for. Expectations were high for Hoagie coming into the season, but facing the #3 and #2-ranked wrestlers in your weight class within 24 hours is a mighty ask of anyone, let alone a freshman.

Most thought he’d lose both, some thought he’d steal one, and nobody outside of Raleigh thought he’d win both. So naturally, Trent won both in clutch fashion. This rocketed him up the rankings from #13 to #2 and cemented himself as a serious contender at 184.

#4: ACC Title

After finishing off an undefeated dual season, the Pack traveled up to Pittsburgh for the ACC Championships, looking to prove that they’re just as dangerous in a tournament format. Behind the strength of two ACC Champions (one we’ll see next in #3) and six finalists total, Popolizio’s boys took home their second straight ACC Tournament Championship.

#3: Camacho Puts It Together

As mentioned above, two ACC Champions led the Pack to the team title in Pittsburgh. One of those was Jakob Camacho, whose upset of returning NCAA Finalist and undefeated #2 Jack Mueller of Virginia ended up earning him Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. Without those first-place points, the Pack does not take home the title.

The most exciting part, and the reason I have this at #3, is that this was only Camacho’s freshman year. An elite win like that makes me so eager to see what he can do next season, since we didn’t get to see how he would follow it up at NCAAs.

#2: Trombley’s Pin for the Win & ACC Title

After giving up pins at 149 & 197 the Pack found themselves in a 15-9 hole to #7 Virginia Tech, despite having split the first six matches. Deonte Wilson and Jakob Camacho followed that up with two narrow decisions to tie the score at 15-15 with two matches remaining. The tension was palpable in Reynolds as two freshmen came to the mat in a pivotal 133-pound bout. So when Jarrett Trombley locked up a cradle and secured a pin less than a minute into his matchup against #25 Gerardi, the place exploded with relief and elation.

The pin, and six team points, secured the victory and the ACC dual title for NC State, and made for one of the most dramatic finishes to a dual that I’ve ever seen. The only one that could top it was exactly one week prior...

#1: Deonte Wilson Plays Closer

For the first time ever, the NC State-UNC dual was contested by two top-10 teams. This high-level matchup brought out the biggest wrestling crowd in NC State history, as over 4,300 people piled into Reynolds. And they were not disappointed. This was a back-and-forth affair, which culminated in a winner-take-all heavyweight bout. Leading 16-14, the Pack was counting on sophomore Deonte Wilson to bring it home. Reynolds turned into a pressurized bubble, ready to pop at the drop of a hat.

Deonte held a 3-2 lead with 30 seconds remaining, but UNC’s Gunning was on the hunt for a final winning takedown. He got in deep on Wilson’s legs, and looked close to the finish on several occasions, but Deonte fed him some strong hips and was eventually able to spin around for the dagger takedown. Reynolds exploded and Deonte Wilson became a living legend.

There are many reasons why this is #1 - the drama, the celebration, the rivalry - but most of all, this was a symbolic moment for the program, in front of a record crowd. When Popolizio first came to Raleigh, there were less than 100 people at wrestling matches. I know because I was there. They used to put a back drop and only use 14 of Reynolds, the nearest endzone to the entrance. And now, they’re getting nearly 4,500 people to come to a dual which ended in insanely dramatic fashion. Everyone who was there that night - casual fan or not - had a great time, and that will lead to their future attendance or interest. Ten years from now, I think this could be looked back on, as one of the most important moments in NC State wrestling history.

Well, that does it for the 2019-2020 NC State wrestling season. Writing this was a cathartic experience for me, and I hope it provides a little more closure for any of you out there who may be struggling to come to terms with this as well. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! Go Pack!

Poll

What was your favorite PackWrestle moment this season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    #5: Hoagie’s Big Weekend
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    #4: ACC Title
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    #3: Camacho Puts It Together
    (4 votes)
  • 21%
    #2: Trombley’s Pin for the Win & ACC Title
    (8 votes)
  • 63%
    #1: Deonte Wilson Plays Closer
    (24 votes)
  • 0%
    Other: Add in comments
    (0 votes)
38 votes total Vote Now