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#7 PackWrestle steamrolls Duke in regular season finale, 37-6

John Devine, AJ Leitten, Daniel & Thomas Bullard, and Tariq Wilson honored during Senior Night
Photo courtesy of Brian Reinhardt / NCSU Athletics

NC State (6-1, 4-1) closed out the regular season on Friday evening with a plastering of the Duke Blue Devils (0-5, 0-5). The Pack won 9 of 10 bouts, with bonus points in five, for a final score of 37-6. This also served as Senior Night for five athletes. John Devine, AJ Leitten, Thomas & Daniel Bullard, and Tariq Wilson were all honored before the dual - it’s a shame they couldn’t get a proper recognition from a full Reynolds Coliseum for their contributions to this program.

The dual started at 125 where Jakob Camacho was able to get back in the win column following last week’s crushing defeat. He put together a 14-5 major decision behind six takedowns and locked up the 2-seed for the ACC Tournament. Ryan Jack and Jarrett Trombley followed up with wins at 133 & 141, respectively. Jack dispatched Drake Doolittle via second-period tech fall, 19-3, and Trombley bumped up a weight and claimed a 11-5 decision victory. This was done strategically by the coaching staff in order to arrange a wrestle-off between the two in the extra matches. They didn’t want one to be more fresh than the other, so they each got a “warm-up” prior to the lineup battle. More on that later.

Next came the biggest match of the dual. Both Ed Scott and Josh Finesilver are on the fringe of being ranked and thus, are likely hovering around the bubble for NCAA qualification. The magnitude of this match was clearly not lost on these two competitors either - they both went at it as if this was an NCAA final. Scott jumped out to the early lead with a takedown in the first period, but Finesilver answered with his own in the second. The match was tied 3-3 at the start of the third but the Pack freshman took command with a six-point headlock (2 for the takedown, 4 for near-fall). Finesilver was able to fight off the pin, but could not overcome the deficit in the final minute and Scott claimed the huge 12-6 victory. This gives Scott a good chance at earning the 3-seed for ACCs, which puts him in position to earn one of the three pre-allocated AQ spots at 149.

AJ Kovacs stepped in for an absent Hayden Hidlay at 157, and was able to pull out a 4-2 win. At 165, Thomas Bullard was the only senior recognized on the night to actually take the mat, and he made the most of it with a first-period pin.

The second Bullard, Daniel, sat out the dual in favor of Alex Faison at 174. Faison proceeded to thoroughly dominate his opponent to the tune of a 22-11 major decision. I was truly impressed with this performance - it could have been a wider margin of victory but he got caught on his back at one point and gave up six points. Other than that, he looked phenomenal - certainly a name to watch for taking over this spot next season. At 184, Duke didn’t have anyone to send out and so Trent Hidlay collected the free win via forfeit.

The one sour spot of the night came at 197, where Duke’s struggling & winless, but very capable, Kaden Russell stuck Isaac Trumble in 44 seconds. For those of us who have been watching Trumble closely since his Bonaccorsi win, this wasn’t super shocking. He was undefeated, but had been making a habit of surrendering early takedowns to his opponents and struggling to generate offense from his feet. This was the case here as well, as Russell was able to secure a quick takedown before locking up a cradle for the finishing move.

This creates a really tough decision for the coaching staff in the coming weeks. Both Trumble and Reenan have deficiencies in their game - Trumble doesn’t appear to have a reliable way of scoring from his feet other than countering his opponents’ shots, whereas Reenan is elite on his feet but struggles on the mat. Trumble has the big Bonaccorsi win in his favor which will help his seeding for ACCs and NCAAs, but I personally believe Reenan is the better choice at this time. I would hate to be in the position to make this decision, and wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of wrestle-off is used to make the choice for them. This is something to keep our eyes on prior to February 28th.

At heavyweight, Deonte completed his perfect ACC season with a 6-2 decision. It would have been nice to see Deonte push for bonus points, as that looks to be the next stage in his development. But regardless, he stuck to his recipe and the match was never in doubt because of it.

#7 NC State 37-6 Duke

  • 125: #3 Jakob Camacho (NCSU) major dec. Logan Agin (Duke); 14-5 (4-0 NCSU)
  • 133: Ryan Jack (NCSU) tech fall Drake Doolittle (Duke); 19-3 (9-0 NCSU)
  • 141: #12 Jarrett Trombley (NCSU) dec. Patrick Rowland (Duke); 11-5 (12-0 NCSU)
  • 149: Ed Scott (NCSU) dec. Josh Finesilver (Duke); 12-6 (15-0 NCSU)
  • 157: AJ Kovacs (NCSU) dec. Brandon LaRue (Duke); 4-2 (18-0 NCSU)
  • 165: #13 Thomas Bullard (NCSU) pin Eric Carter (Duke); 1:53 (24-0 NCSU)
  • 174: Alex Faison (NCSU) major dec. Conor Becker (Duke); 22-11 (28-0 NCSU)
  • 184: #3 Trent Hidlay (NCSU) forfeit (34-0 NCSU)
  • 197: Kaden Russell (Duke) pin #4 Isaac Trumble (NCSU); 0:44 (34-6 NCSU)
  • 285: #19 Deonte Wilson (NCSU) dec. Jonah Niesenbaum (Duke); 6-2 (37-6 NCSU)

As expected, this dual was a blowout. But many important things still came from it: Ed Scott took a huge step toward NCAA qualification, we got some good action for depth guys like Faison and Kovacs, and the 197 roster battle is possibly back open. But the biggest result came from a match that wasn’t a part of this dual. In the extra matches, the coaching staff matched up Jarrett Trombley and Ryan Jack for what appeared to be a de-facto wrestle-off for the 133 spot. They both have had similar results on the year, so I think the staff decided just to put it in their hands. And Trombley came out on top with a narrow 6-5 decision. So it looks like we will be rolling with the sophomore moving forward.

A final storyline to follow that came from this dual had nothing to do with any results on the mat. But it is notable that neither Hayden Hidlay nor Nick Reenan were recognized for Senior Night. Neither wrestled either, so it leaves two possible scenarios. 1) Hayden & Nick were unable to attend the dual for health/unspecified reasons or 2) Hayden & Nick plan on utilizing their “COVID redshirt” to return next season. This is huge news considering Hayden mentioned on a preseason podcast that he would not guarantee a return for the 2021-2022 season. Technically, any and all wrestlers can return next season since this year does not count toward eligibility, but with coaches now needing to balance scholarships to include another class of athletes, it is possible some guys are being told they won’t keep their money for another season. I do not expect this would be the case for Hayden, who is the caliber of athlete that any program would clear some money for if he wanted to return another year. Time will tell here, but I have to say not seeing him in the list of recognized seniors got me a little excited.

That puts a bow on NC State’s regular season, so they turn their attention to the ACC Tournament, which will be hosted in Reynolds. Before then there is a decision to be made at 197, but we likely won’t know anything until the days leading up to the tournament. In the next week or so, I will take a crack at predicting the ACC Tournament seeding, so keep your eyes peeled for that.