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PackWrestle: Upperweight Preview

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FloSports: FloWrestling Journeyman Collegiate Classic Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

College wrestling is back! This past weekend marked the first action for many teams across the country. The Pack sent some guys down to South Carolina to compete in the Battle at the Citadel, however the first look at the full lineup will come in two weeks when Old Dominion visits Reynolds for the first dual of the season. Before then, we are going to wrap-up our preview series with its final installment: the Upperweights. If you missed the previous two, see below.

Links: Lightweights | Middleweights

184 Pounds

Trent Hidlay (R-Fr)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - #14 / Trackwrestling - #12 / InterMat - #15

Trent completes what will be a dangerous Hidlay-Bullard-Bullard-Hidlay sandwich in the middle of the Wolfpack lineup. And what a fitting arrangement that is, because the younger Hidlay brother is affectionately known in the wrestling community as “Hoagie Boy” Hidlay. His love of sandwiches is part of his identity, along with his underhook and hard-nosed wrestling style. He cemented his legendary love of loaves back in his senior year of high school, when after pinning his opponent at Who’s Number One, he celebrated by dining on a footlong in the middle of the mat.

Along with his unique persona, Trent also brings a unique set of accolades to the program for a freshman. Coming out of high school, Hidlay was a two-time state champion in PA, and three-time finalist. He was the #18 recruit on FloWrestling’s Class of 2018 Big Board and has done nothing but live up to that number since joining his brother in Raleigh. On the redshirt circuit last year, Trent put up a 24-2 record (6-2 vs. Top 25) with his only two losses coming in tight matches to All-Americans. Then over the summer, he won the US Open and World Team Trials to earn the 86kg spot on the Junior World Team. At the Junior World Championships in August, Trent took home a bronze medal. This amount of success prior to even putting on a Wolfpack singlet is quite rare for the NC State program. So you could say expectations are high for this kid.

The 184lb weight class is Zahid Valencia’s (Arizona State) to lose. The reigning two-time NCAA champ from 174 is moving up in weight for his senior season, and I have a hard time seeing anyone keep him from a third title. Beyond that, there are a bunch of guys in the mix, and this is where I feel Trent will slot in. He will be a strength of our lineup throughout the season, and ultimately should have a great shot at earning AA honors in his first attempt.

197 Pounds

Nick Reenan (R-Jr)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - #9 / Trackwrestling - #12 / InterMat - #8

If Trent is part of a Hidlay-Bullard sandwich from 157-184, then Nick Reenan is the pickle spear served on the side at a nice deli. These five weights will be the core of our lineup, and Reenan is the perfect way to finish it off. A former Top 5 recruit from the 2016 class, Reenan has been unsuccessful in his first two attempts to place at NCAAs. Last year looked to be a sure-fire thing; he worked his way up to a #2 ranking in the country at 184lbs before he tore his ACL in January. Despite the injury, Nick gutted it out the rest of the season but only looked a shadow of himself (10-0 before the injury, 6-6 after). The greatest hope for all PackWrestle fans is that Reenan is back healthy. As he has shown by making it to Final X two years ago: when Nick is healthy, he is an elite wrestler.

Now, up a weight at 197, Reenan will be competing against guys who are a little bit bigger than him. However, this is not a foreign concept to Nick. This is exactly what he did in high school, and he had great success with wrestling bigger guys. I think he will fit into this weight class quite well. In fact, I think it may have been the smarter move, because 197 is much more open than 184 and Nick’s style translates well against guys with a speed disadvantage. It remains to be seen how healthy Reenan is, but if his knee is ready to go I think he has a great shot to stand atop the podium at the end of the year.

285 Pounds

Deonte Wilson (So)

Preseason Ranking: FloWrestling - NR / Trackwrestling - NR / InterMat - NR

Like last year, heavyweight could be up in the air all season. In 2018-19 we saw the coaching staff jump back and forth between Deonte Wilson and Colin Lawler, giving both freshmen a chance to take the starting spot. It’s safe to say, neither took the reins. In the end, Popolizio gave the nod to Wilson, but he couldn’t place high enough at ACCs to qualify for NCAAs, so the Wolfpack was without a representative. It appears that the Pack will call on one of the two once again, but with the hope that last year has prepared them to take a step forward this season. Also, keep an eye on true-freshman Owen Trephan who was a Top 75 recruit on last year’s Big Board. It’s likely he takes a redshirt season to acclimate to the college scene and a new weight class, but if the staff gets frustrated enough with the production from Wilson and Lawler, a redshirt pull is not out of the question.

Expectations are tempered for this group, not only due to their underwhelming showings last year, but also because of the renaissance we are currently seeing in the heavyweight division. The talent coming out of high school the last two or three years for this weight class is ridiculous, and there is more coming. I would be shocked to see one of our guys compete for an All-American finish, but improving upon last year and qualifying for the national tournament would be a success in my eyes.

That does it for our PackWrestle previews. We have gone top to bottom through our projected lineup for the 2019-2020 season, and this group looks promising. This is what we’ve come to expect from the program under Pat Popolizio, and he should have no trouble continuing to deliver with this team. With at least half of the lineup in good standing to AA at the national tournament, this team could place Top 4 again and take home another team trophy. Only time will tell if these gut instincts have any validity, but I sure cannot wait to see it develop.

Thank you to all who have read these, and keep an eye open throughout the season for more dual/tournament previews and results. My one purpose in doing this is to try to share the joy of this great sport with the rest of my fellow Wolfpackers. So I implore each of you who have stuck with me this far, make it a mission to get out to at least one dual meet this year. I promise you will not regret it!

Go Pack!