NC State capped off their loaded final weekend of the regular season with a victory over #7 Virginia Tech (9-4, 4-1). The Pack finish the season with a 13-1 record overall, and a perfect 5-0 mark in the ACC. The win secured the ACC Dual title for Popolizio & Co., though it was technically claimed on Friday night since VT forfeited the originally-scheduled dual last month.
This dual was a contest of momentum, which I think the Hokies were hoping for. Coach Robie won the coin toss and chose to start the dual at 165. They were hoping they could ride the wave of a heavyweight win and parlay that into victories in the crucial toss-ups at 125-149. This was a brilliant strategy, and very nearly paid off.
Thomas Bullard got us started with a one-sided 4-0 victory over unranked Clayton Ulrey. Thomas was once again punishing from the top position, and never looked threatened. Hayden Hidlay bounced back in a big way from Friday night’s shocker, and kept things rolling for the Pack. A tactical & cautious match by both men from start to finish led to sudden victory overtime, but Hayden would not be denied in his final Reynolds appearance. He clearly had more in the tank and started getting to his underhooks more easily as time went on, which opened up his trusty right-sided arm spin. Now Mekhi is no easy man to finish on, and he made Hayden work, but eventually HH got both legs and secured the winning takedown. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about a sporting result. I lost my voice along with many others in the echoing depths of Reynolds Coliseum.
Trent Hidlay followed his brother’s performance with an elite win of his own over rival Hunter Bolen. Something about the way these two matchup that just creates a nail-biter every time. Even if Bolen has had an underwhelming season thus far, everyone knew this would be another battle. But Trent showed why he is the returning ACC Champ & NCAA Finalist, and not Bolen. Isaac Trumble made it four in a row to start the dual when he claimed a 6-0 victory over Dakota Howard. This is Isaac’s third consecutive match pitching a shut-out, which just further reinforces our point of how difficult his style is to wrestle against. Nobody wants to see him on their bracket at NCAAs.
Nearly halfway through the dual and we were up 12-0. This was beginning to look like it could be a blowout, but VT still wouldn’t go away. They won three straight matches from heavyweight to 133 - with a major decision by Korbin Myers - to bring the team score back to 12-10. This is where my nerves started firing. Virginia Tech had all of the momentum and could reasonably win two of the remaining three bouts to take the dual. But the crazy thing about wrestling is you can find a hero in the most unlikely places. Two years ago, it was Deonte Wilson & Jarrett Trombley. Tonight, it was Ryan Jack. RJ. Little Man. The guy who I was questioning just two nights ago. Jack had wrestled his two previous ACC matches with questionable strategies and looked to be battling some mental hurdles as of late. Not the ideal guy to have out there in a crucial match. But RJ put all the doubts to rest early with a clean ankle-pick takedown and tough ride. From there he managed the match well and fought off a late Gerardi takedown attempt to secure the 4-3 win.
Up 15-10, Tariq Wilson came out and closed the show with a 9-3 victory over the always dangerous #5 Bryce Andonian. You could see what Andonian’s plan was early and often - he kept trying to bait Tariq into upper-body locks which is the Hokie’s specialty. But Tariq wouldn’t bite. He stuck to the game plan like you would expect a sixth-year senior to do, and ended up outclassing Andonian in just about every facet. This weekend is the best Tariq has looked all year, and it’s becoming obvious that he is starting to peak at the right time as always. Even that Griddy is looking to be in postseason form.
This result pushed the team score beyond the Hokies’ reach at 18-10, but being the savage that Pat Pop is, he still sent out Ed Scott to send a message. Now I will give credit where it is due, Connor Brady did put up a good fight, but his only real points came off of a failed Ed-lock attempt. I think in a different scenario where we need Ed to win that match, he pushes this one further beyond the 4-3 score he won by. But with the dual locked-up, I think Ed went out there hunting for a crowd-pleasing finish rather than wrestling a tactical masterpiece. If these two meet again, I’m hammering that Ed Scott (-1.5) line all day.
#4 NC State 21-10 #7 Virginia Tech
- 165: #21 Thomas Bullard (NCSU) dec. Clayton Ulrey (VT); 4-0 (3-0 NCSU)
- 174: #4 Hayden Hidlay (NCSU) dec. #3 Mekhi Lewis (VT); 3-1 SV1 (6-0 NCSU)
- 184: #3 Trent Hidlay (NCSU) dec. #14 Hunter Bolen (VT); 2-1 (9-0 NCSU)
- 197: #15 Isaac Trumble (NCSU) dec. #30 Dakota Howard (VT); 6-0 (12-0 NCSU)
- 285: #14 Nathan Traxler (VT) dec. Owen Trephan (NCSU); 3-2 (12-3 NCSU)
- 125: #20 Sam Latona (VT) dec. #14 Jakob Camacho (NCSU); 9-3 (12-6 NCSU)
- 133: #5 Korbin Myers (VT) major dec. #14 Kai Orine (NCSU); 14-6 (12-10 NCSU)
- 141: #24 Ryan Jack (NCSU) dec. #22 Collin Gerardi (VT); 4-3 (15-10 NCSU)
- 149: #3 Tariq Wilson (NCSU) dec. #5 Bryce Andonian (VT); 9-3 (18-10 NCSU)
- 157: #11 Ed Scott (NCSU) dec. #28 Connor Brady (VT); 4-3 (21-10 NCSU)
So in a dual of streaks, the Pack won the most important ones, taking seven of ten matches for the 21-10 victory. Senior leadership was huge as Thomas Bullard, Hayden Hidlay, and Tariq Wilson all took care of business. The environment was electric and we sent these PackWrestle legends out in style.
What a weekend. Now we’re poised to make a run at our fourth consecutive ACC Tournament title in two weeks in Charlottesville. I would expect tonight’s win would earn the all-important #1 seed for Hayden Hidlay, to join teammates Tariq Wilson, Trent Hidlay, and Isaac Trumble. We will do a deep-dive in the coming weeks, but for now let’s just enjoy these moments.
Wild weekend. Too many blessings to count. I’ve got a great team and a great family. When so many people have your back, it’s easy for a badass to bounce back. Onward!! @PackWrestle pic.twitter.com/z2yvAVkJh2— Hayden Hidlay (@Hidlaymania) February 21, 2022