NC State (12-1, 5-0) hosted the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels (8-6, 3-2) on Friday night in front of the 3rd largest wrestling crowd in the history the program. The Pack won seven of ten bouts, with three for bonus points, and claimed the 25-12 victory. This marked the ninth-straight win in this rivalry for Popolizio’s program. These are all great things - so why am I feeling so empty inside? We’ll get to that shortly.
First, let’s make our way through the dual, which started at 125. Camacho faced another ACC opponent who wasn’t really interested in attacking all that much, but rather slowing the match down to try and maybe steal it at the end. And Jakob did what he has been doing: poured it on in the 3rd to crush all hopes of an upset. His opponent, Spencer Moore, never looked a threat to win it, but he set the tone for how the Tar Heels were going to approach all of their matches for the night. Take very few steps forward, hold position, and try to capitalize on our mistakes.
This paid off for them at 133 & 141. Orine looked like the clearly better wrestler throughout, but his gas tank issues reared their ugly head tonight and no matter how much the crowd got behind him, he just didn’t have enough juice left to get out from bottom in the 3rd. As soon as this went to overtime it was clear we were in a tough spot, and Heilmann secured the victory with a takedown. Next up, Ryan Jack dropped a head-scratcher to #7 Kizhan Clarke, 4-3. This is the second week in a row that RJ has essentially done nothing in his match, and I’m starting to get concerned. Granted, his last two opponents were the cream of the crop in the ACC, but this isn’t the same guy that attacked relentlessly to take #2 Jaydin Eierman to the brink. He seems gun-shy and I can’t tell if there’s something more going on. If Jack is going to be the impact guy we need him to be, then there is no doubt he needs to be a confident and willing leg-attacker. That is when he’s at his best, and we haven’t seen it lately.
Down 6-3 in the team score, Tariq came out on Senior Night and got things right again. He cruised to a 6-2 victory over Zach Sherman to push his series advantage over the Tar Heel to 7-1. At 157 UNC’s NCAA Champion, Austin O’Connor, decided to take the night off and not even weigh in. And because of it, Ed Scott proceeded to abuse some poor fella. Some teammate you are AOC. Throwing your buddy Mason Phillips out there when you know a rabid Ed Scott is waiting on the other side. Wow. Shameful. No Ed-locks on the menu tonight, instead Scott played a twisted game of “catch and release” which reduced Phillips to a dizzied shadow of his former self. These are the times I thank God for the 15-point mercy limit. Emphasis on mercy. Without it, we’d probably still be sitting there watching Ed drill on the kid.
Thomas Bullard kept the dominance rolling at 165, as he cruised to a 10-2 major decision victory. He was crushing in the top position tonight, and even had a couple solid attacks from his feet. He fell to Wentzel last week, but still has a great shot at an ACC title and setting himself up for a run at the podium in Detroit.
Bullard’s win pushed the team score comfortably in our favor at 15-6 and at this point, I full believed that the drama was over. And that’s where I blacked-out. I don’t remember exactly what happened, I just know it was something very painful that I don’t want to relive. Oh, here’s a clip. My play button won’t work, but if you care to watch, you can.
All joking aside, congrats to Clay Lautt. He now has something on his resume that very few others do - a win over Hayden Hidlay. This was the definition of unexpected. Like I said in the preview, they may be close in rank, but I think there is a large gap there. Hayden was showing that the whole way leading up to the finishing sequence. If he sank his hips back just a little bit more, he sits on a 5-0 lead with a mountain of riding time and is in striking distance of the major. But hey, that’s the dangerous game they play and you have to give credit to Lautt for pulling it out. That said, I saw nothing to deter me from making the same pick when they meet again at the ACC Tournament. In fact, I’m even more confident in HH after seeing what we did. It sucks that this had to happen on his Senior Night, but if there’s anyone I’d bet on bouncing back, it’s Hayden Hidlay. Beating #3 Mekhi Lewis on Sunday night would be one grand way to do that.
At 184, Trent had maybe the hardest job of the night. The arena was deflated after what we had just witnessed, and he had to have been feeling a crazy amount of emotion seeing that happen to his brother. One could easily excuse a lackluster performance, but that wasn’t what we got. Instead, the Hoagie Boy absolutely hammered #9 Gavin Kane by a 13-3 major decision. Kane never even looked competitive, it was all Trent, which is crazy because this is a kid who just beat Hunter Bolen. This performance just perfectly personified what these Hidlay kids are all about. They are made of grit and steel and heart and maybe even a little bit of Turkey & Provolone. We are so unbelievably lucky these two have chosen NC State. Just a top-notch family.
Isaac Trumble and Owen Trephan closed the show at 197 & heavyweight, respectively. Trumble has shown his improvements from last year by dominating a tough Max Shaw. Yes, Isaac won this match by pin last year, but that was after surrendering the first two takedowns to the Tar Heel. This match, Shaw didn’t even have a sniff of scoring. Owen Trephan stepped in to close out the dual, and used a big 3rd period to secure the 6-2 win.
#4 NC State 25-12 #22 UNC
- 125: #14 Jakob Camacho (NCSU) dec. Spencer Moore (UNC); 7-2 (3-0 NCSU)
- 133: #21 Joe Heilmann (UNC) dec. #14 Kai Orine (NCSU); 4-2 SV1 (3-3)
- 141: #7 Kizhan Clarke (UNC) dec. #24 Ryan Jack (NCSU); 4-3 (3-6 UNC)
- 149: #3 Tariq Wilson (NCSU) dec. #17 Zach Sherman (UNC); 6-2 (6-6)
- 157: #11 Ed Scott (NCSU) tech fall Mason Phillips (UNC); 21-6 (11-6 NCSU)
- 165: #21 Thomas Bullard (NCSU) major dec. Isaias Estrada (UNC); 10-2 (15-6 NCSU)
- 174: #9 Clay Lautt (UNC) pin #4 Hayden Hidlay (NCSU); 4:34 (15-12 NCSU)
- 184: #3 Trent Hidlay (NCSU) major dec. #9 Gavin Kane (UNC); 13-3 (19-12 NCSU)
- 197: #15 Isaac Trumble (NCSU) dec. #27 Max Shaw (UNC); 6-0 (22-12 NCSU)
- 285: Owen Trephan (NCSU) dec. Brandon Whitman (UNC); 6-2 (25-12 NCSU)
Things got a little dicey after that 174 result, but in the end this was a comfortable victory for the Pack. Just imagine if UNC had used their best wrestler. This dual might’ve still been up in the air coming down to the heavyweights. Big brain move by the scholars over there in Chapel Hill. Hayden may have taken his first ACC loss, but at least he toed the line.
NC State returns to Reynolds on Sunday evening as they close out their regular season with a non-conference dual against Virginia Tech. This one is riddled with insane matchups, you do not want to miss it!