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#4 PackWrestle: New Rankings & Massive Weekend Preview

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

New Rankings

NC State (11-1, 4-0) heads into the final week of the regular season at #4 in the NWCA Coaches Poll. This is likely the ceiling for this season, as the three teams ahead of us have already faced each other and will likely close out this weekend with victories.

We also have updated individual rankings from Intermat. See where our guys check-in below:

  • 125: Camacho #14 (previous: 14)
  • 133: Orine #14 (14)
  • 141: Jack #24 (24)
  • 149: T. Wilson #3 (3)
  • 157: Scott #11 (11)
  • 165: Bullard #21 (22)
  • 174: H. Hidlay #4 (4)
  • 184: T. Hidlay #3 (3)
  • 197: Trumble #15 (16)
  • 285: Houghton #26 (26)

Isaac Trumble’s huge repeat win over #6 Nino Bonaccorsi earned him ACC Wrestler of the Week honors, which is a small consolation for the disrespect he was shown by Intermat rankers. His loss to Princeton’s Aidan Conner is clearly a black-eye on his record, but with the wins he has (#6, #8, #16) and being 2-0 over Bonaccorsi in his career, I don’t see how he isn’t a bigger mover in this week’s release. Nino only has one top-20 win this season (#16 Aiello) and three losses (#10 Brucki, #11 Bulsak, #15 Trumble), yet somehow stays seven spots ahead of Isaac at #8.

UNC Dual

How to Watch: ACC Network

Wrestling Rules & Scoring

The Pack’s big weekend kicks-off with a home rivalry dual against #22 North Carolina (8-5, 3-1) on Friday night. The Tar Heels have enjoyed steady success in their seven seasons under head coach Coleman Scott, culminating with Austin O’Connor’s NCAA title in St. Louis last year, the program’s first such champion since 1995. But that success has not been found in this rivalry - NC State has won each of the last eight meetings between the two schools, and are favorites to make it nine in front of a raucous Reynolds Coliseum crowd.

The Pack’s senior class have owned this rivalry like few before, so it’s only appropriate that they be honored during Senior Night prior to this dual. The ceremony is scheduled to start at 6:45, so get there early to celebrate the immeasurable contributions the likes of Thomas Bullard, Nick Reenan, Tariq Wilson, and Hayden Hidlay have had on this program.

These guys came back for moments like this, let’s really show out for them. They are sure to put on a show. Now let’s dive into the projected lineups and my predictions below:

  • 125: #14 Jakob Camacho vs. Spencer Moore (Camacho major; 4-0 NCSU)
  • 133: #14 Kai Orine vs. #21 Joe Heilmann (Orine decision; 7-0 NCSU)
  • 141: #24 Ryan Jack vs. #7 Kizhan Clarke (Clarke decision; 7-3 NCSU)
  • 149: #3 Tariq Wilson vs. #17 Zach Sherman (Tariq decision; 10-3 NCSU)
  • 157: #11 Ed Scott vs. #5 Austin O’Connor (O’Connor decision; 10-6 NCSU)
  • 165: #21 Thomas Bullard vs. Isaias Estrada or Sonny Santiago (Bullard decision; 13-6 NCSU)
  • 174: #4 Hayden Hidlay vs. #9 Clay Lautt (Hidlay major; 17-6 NCSU)
  • 184: #3 Trent Hidlay vs. #9 Gavin Kane (Hidlay decision; 20-6 NCSU)
  • 197: #15 Isaac Trumble vs. #27 Max Shaw (Trumble decision; 23-6 NCSU)
  • 285: #26 Tyrie Houghton vs. Brandon Whitman (Houghton decision; 26-6 NCSU)

Key Matchups

#3 Tariq Wilson vs. #17 Zach Sherman

Well, well, well...what have we here? Both of these guys underwent an offseason weight change, and yet here we are again. These two just can’t avoid each other, and really that’s good news for us because Tariq has dominated this series. Aside from falling in the 2020 ACC Finals, Tariq has never lost to Sherman. He is 6-1 against his rival, including avenging that title loss twice last season. Tariq has yet to really turn it up this season - well this weekend is as good a time as any. Sherman is just the appetizer before he meets with #5 Bryce Andonian on Sunday, in one of the ACC’s most-anticipated matchups of the season. But the Tar Heel is just dangerous enough that he can’t afford to be overlooked. And if UNC are looking to pull the upset, this is one they will probably need.

#11 Ed Scott vs. #5 Austin O’Connor

Just like with Tariq and Sherman, these two met last year down one weight from where they’ll meet again on Friday night. O’Connor was the winner by major decision then, but I think the weight change has benefitted Ed Scott far more. He has shown marked improvements in just about every facet of his game during his second season in the lineup, and I fully expect him to improve on his result against the reigning NCAA Champion. I’m not picking the upset quite yet, as AOC is still one of the country’s best, but this one will be competitive. Ed just needs to stay in his face without chasing the Ed-lock. If he can put together a disciplined match-script like he did in his win over Quincy Monday, Ed will have a chance to win it.

#4 Hayden Hidlay vs. #9 Clay Lautt

Astoundingly, Lautt wrestled Trent at 184 in last year’s dual, holding him to a 5-1 decision. Now with Hayden jumping two weight classes in one season, and Lautt dropping to 174, he gets to complete his Brothers of Destruction set. Not exactly something collectors are clamoring for. These two are close in ranking, but I think there is a pretty seismic chasm between the top-6 at this weight and the rest of the field. If Lautt takes the same scared approach into this match that he employed against Trent last year, then it is possible he could preserve the bonus point. But with Hayden’s difference-making ability on top, I think there is a higher likelihood we see a turn than last year, and thus a major decision. Either way, I don’t expect this to be a particularly close match.

#3 Trent Hidlay vs. #9 Gavin Kane

The hottest wrestler on the Carolina roster, and maybe in the ACC right now is Gavin Kane. He hasn’t lost a match since the Wolfpack Open in November, and is fresh off an overtime victory over Hunter Bolen last week. This sees the freshman catapult into the top-10 of the 184 rankings. Unfortunately for him, he now runs into the Hoagie Boy. Kane likes to attack legs, which we have seen freeze Trent up at times in the past (ex: Bonaccorsi, Devin Kane), but I think Trent will come out the aggressor in this matchup and put the freshman on his heels where he’ll struggle to get in on anything significant. We have also seen incredible improvements from the younger Hidlay this season. His bonus percentage is at an amazing 92% - up from 17% last year - and his baseline defense is so good we rarely see anyone get past his head and hands to grab a leg. I picked a decision above, but wouldn’t be surprised to see a statement made in the form of a major decision if Trent can break the young Tar Heel.

Virginia Tech Dual

How to Watch: ACC Network

After tons of drama surrounding the Hokies’ forfeit of the originally scheduled January 21st dual, the coaches were able to come to an agreement that the country needed to see these two teams face-off. The Pack keeps the win for conference record purposes, but the ACC Dual of the Year was re-booked as a non-conference matchup that will take place on Sunday at 6PM in Reynolds to close the regular season. And good thing too, because this is a top-10 showdown which boasts nine ranked head-to-heads and 19 ranked wrestlers overall. Some of the most intriguing matchups in the entire country will be going down in this dual, and I was devastated when I thought we had lost it.

See below for projected lineups and my predictions:

  • 125: #14 Jakob Camacho vs. #20 Sam Latona (Camacho decision; 3-0 NCSU)
  • 133: #14 Kai Orine vs. #5 Korbin Myers (Myers decision; 3-3)
  • 141: #24 Ryan Jack vs. #22 Collin Gerardi (Jack decision; 6-3 NCSU)
  • 149: #3 Tariq Wilson vs. #5 Bryce Andonian (Tariq decision; 9-3 NCSU)
  • 157: #11 Ed Scott vs. #28 Connor Brady (Scott major; 13-3 NCSU)
  • 165: #21 Thomas Bullard vs. Clayton Ulrey (Bullard decision; 16-3 NCSU)
  • 174: #4 Hayden Hidlay vs. #3 Mekhi Lewis (Hidlay decision; 19-3 NCSU)
  • 184: #3 Trent Hidlay vs. #14 Hunter Bolen (Hidlay decision; 22-3 NCSU)
  • 197: #15 Isaac Trumble vs. #30 Dakota Howard (Trumble decision; 25-3 NCSU)
  • 285: #26 Tyrie Houghton vs. #14 Nathan Traxler (Traxler decision; 25-6 NCSU)

In the interest of time and not losing your attention by writing a preview that more closely resembles a saga, I am going to forego the Key Matchups section for this dual and just link my previous article here. I promise, I’m not trying to cheat you by recycling old material, but it’s all there. And very little has changed. Go ahead, take a look.

This is going to be one hell of a weekend, and I can’t wait. I’m really hoping we get a packed house for these seniors. I am also interested in how you all see these duals going - please comment your predictions down below and if you plan on being in attendance for either or both.

I also want to give a shoutout to my dad who will be reading this. His birthday is on Friday and we will hopefully be celebrating a Wolfpack win at Players’ Retreat after the dual. Happy Birthday Dad!