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#5 PackWrestle: New Rankings & Virginia Tech Preview

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NCAA Wrestling: Wrestling Championships
Virginia Tech’s first-ever National Champion, Mekhi Lewis
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

New Rankings

NC State wrestling (6-1) remains in the top-5 of the latest NWCA Coaches Poll as they begin their ACC dual schedule. The conference also boasts three other ranked teams: Virginia Tech at #7, Pitt at #18, and UNC at #22.

We also have a new batch of Intermat individual rankings. Not much movement after last week’s inactivity, but see where our guys fall below:

  • 125: Camacho #14 (previous: 11)
  • 133: Orine #17 (17)
  • 141: Jack #15 (15)
  • 149: T. Wilson #3 (3)
  • 157: Scott #10 (10)
  • 165: Bullard #22 (23)
  • 174: H. Hidlay #4 (4)
  • 184: T. Hidlay #3 (3)
  • 197: Trumble #19 (19)
  • 285: Trephan #23 (23)

We will surely see some changes in next week’s edition with so many ranked matchups going down in our Virginia Tech dual, and across the country.

Virginia Tech Dual

How to Watch: ACC Network

Wrestling Rules & Scoring

This is it. The best the ACC has to offer in terms of dual matchups. Virginia Tech (5-3) represents the Pack’s biggest challenge to ACC supremacy, and has for the better part of the past decade. One of these two teams has won the ACC Dual title every year since 2014 and the ACC Tournament title every year since 2015. Now the Hokies will come into Reynolds on Friday night for NC State’s ACC home opener. And this might just be the best version of this rivalry we have ever seen.

There will be 18 ranked wrestlers featured in this dual, with 8 of the 10 matchups being a ranked vs. ranked bout. Seven of these athletes are in the top-10 of their respective weight classes, and they will face-off in two of the marquee bouts at 149 & 174.

But you can throw rankings out the window. In this rivalry there are always surprises and you can rest assured every match will be tightly-contested. Each of the last seven meetings between these two programs has been decided by a one bout margin, so every guy will be fighting for every point, wrestling like the dual is on the line. And that should parlay into a fantastically tense atmosphere. I’m not quite sure how to express just how excited I am for this Friday night, but ACC Network wrestling analyst, Rock Harrison does a pretty good job personifying it below.

Let’s take a look at the projected lineups and my predictions below:

  • 125: #14 Jakob Camacho vs. #21 Sam Latona (Camacho decision; 3-0 NCSU)
  • 133: #17 Kai Orine or Jarrett Trombley vs. #5 Korbin Myers (Myers decision Orine; 3-3)
  • 141: #15 Ryan Jack vs. Collin Gerardi or Sam Hillegas (Jack decision Gerardi; 6-3 NCSU)
  • 149: #3 Tariq Wilson vs. #6 Bryce Andonian (Wilson decision; 9-3 NCSU)
  • 157: #10 Ed Scott vs. #23 Connor Brady (Scott decision; 12-3 NCSU)
  • 165: #22 Thomas Bullard vs. Clayton Ulrey (Bullard decision; 15-3 NCSU)
  • 174: #4 Hayden Hidlay vs. #3 Mekhi Lewis (Hidlay decision; 18-3 NCSU)
  • 184: #3 Trent Hidlay vs. #13 Hunter Bolen (Hidlay decision; 21-3 NCSU)
  • 197: #19 Isaac Trumble vs. #33 Dakota Howard or Andy Smith (Trumble decision Howard; 24-3 NCSU)
  • 285: #23 Owen Trephan or Tyrie Houghton vs. #13 Nathan Traxler (Traxler decision; 24-6 NCSU)

A blowout? Yeah that doesn’t feel right, but a coin doesn’t always flip 50% heads and 50% tails. And that’s what a lot of these matchups are: coinflips. We don’t yet know the starting weight, so that could also play a factor. I really hope they start at 197 so we can end with the Brothers of Destruction and those two insane matchups at 174 & 184.

Key Matchups

#3 Tariq Wilson vs. #6 Bryce Andonian

A top-10 matchup and it likely won’t be the only time we see it. As things stand, these two look the favorites to meet in the ACC Final and could even hit in an NCAA quarterfinal. And man, what a fascinating stylistic clash. This one scares me. If there’s one thing that has given Tariq problems in the past, it is guys with big move capabilities. We’ve seen it with Pitt’s Cole Matthews, Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman, and even former Hokie, Mitch Moore. And what do we know about Bryce Andonian? The guy lets it fly. He lives and dies by the big move - we saw it burn Ed Scott twice last year. Tariq must stay out of these situations early. If he stays disciplined and can dictate the pace from the jump, his scores should come easier later in the match. If he falls in an early hole and is forced to chase, it plays right into Andonian’s hands. Stay on the outside and put on a tough ride when he gets on top. Riding time could play a factor for Tariq.

#4 Hayden Hidlay vs. #3 Mekhi Lewis

Hayden is giving up size, speed, and probably even strength in this matchup against the 2019 NCAA Champion, but I still think he has what it takes to get it done here. Mekhi is an absolute freak of nature physically, and has an elite wrestling toolset. His balance is legendary and he can beat you in a variety of ways. My biggest concern is Hayden struggling with Mekhi’s length, but I think he implements a gameplan that is advantageous to his strengths: closing the gap and attacking from short offense such as his underhook as well as keeping a low stance with good head-hands defense to prevent Lewis getting in underneath his guard. If Hayden can set the tone in the first period and avoid trailing at the break, I think he should start to wear Mekhi down with his pressure. I think one mistake decides this match, and in ACC competition HH doesn’t make mistakes.

#3 Trent Hidlay vs. #13 Hunter Bolen

We’ve seen this one many times before, but never with Bolen ranked down at #13. He has had an underwhelming start to the season, but you can bet he will be at the top of his game for this matchup. This is probably the biggest individual rivalry in the ACC, with Bolen holding the 3-1 edge in the series, but Trent has the latest win. I also think that Trent has really jumped levels since their last meeting, putting a little bit of a gap between himself and the Bolen-Poznanski-Keckeisen tier. We’ll learn a lot on Friday night...or this will be another tightly-contested one takedown match that keeps us all on the edge of our seats throughout. Yeah...probably that. But either way, I’ve got a dub for the Hoagie Boy.

Really these are almost all key matchups. The only bouts that really seem to have a pretty distinct favorite are 133 & 157. Aside from that, these are all toss-ups and there is a ridiculous amount of possible outcomes. I’m sure my predictions above won’t be right, so I decided to just ride with my Pack! Regardless, we are in for an insane dual on Friday night and if you live within a one-hour radius of Raleigh, you should make an effort to be there. Ed says he wants a packed house for this one, so I would do what he says or you might just get headlocked.

You can listen to Coach Pop’s preview of the dual in the car on the way to campus. Just be sure to get there early! First 500 through the doors get a free t-shirt. Wear red and go Pack!