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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 20, 2022

3 storylines to know before No. 5 NC State wrestles No. 7 Virginia Tech

The top storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Predictions are a fool's game, but there is one thing we know for certain ahead of Friday's dual between No. 5 NC State and No. 7 Virginia Tech: Reynolds Coliseum is going to get loud.

The NC State Wolfpack have been on a rapid upward trajectory since the arrival of head coach Pat Popolizio ten years ago, and the end result of this effort is the 4,000+ fans that turn out to support the Red and Black. This community is faithful, and they will be ready Friday night.

In three of their last four meetings with the Hokies, NC State has pulled out the win, with last year's dual coming down to the last weight and ending up in favor of the Virginia Tech. The year, the three-time ACC champion Wolfpack want revenge, but they'll once again be battling for every point, as Tech brings eight ranked wrestlers with three in the top ten. The Pack have the advantage on paper, but this is going to be a back-and-forth showdown that you won't want to miss. Here are the three biggest storylines to know heading into the ACC rivalry dual.

1) Brothers of Destruction lead the Pack

The NC State Wolfpack are led by a pair of brothers — Trent and Hayden — who have branded themselves the "Brothers of Destruction," a tagline that aligns with their aggressive wrestling style, high-energy approach and fearless leadership. These two take their role on the team seriously, and they love to put on a show for their home fans.

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Hayden, a sixth-year senior, comes into the dual undefeated in conference matches across his entire career and holding a 6-0 record with 66.6% bonus. He's finished on the podium in all three of his NCAA tournament appearances, placing 2nd, 4th and 5th, but he wants a title in this last season. Hayden Hidlay talked over the summer about the decision to return to the Pack for this final season and explained that his decision was influenced by the chance the wrestle another year with his younger brother, 184-pounder Trent.

When Hayden announced his decision to return, he also shared that he'd be bumping up two weight classes, leaving behind the 157-pound weight that he had competed in for the last five years and bulking up to 174 pounds to wrestle back-to-back with Trent in duals. These two train together, and they train hard.

The younger of the Hidlay brothers, Trent, finished second at the NCAA tournament last year and is in the conversation for a national championship again. Virginia Tech poses and interesting challenge for both Trent and Hayden Hidlay, however, with Trent set to take on No. 13 Hunter Bolen, a familiar opponent, and Hayden taking on No. 3 Mekhi Lewis, a 2019 NCAA champion at 165 pounds.

Bolen beat Trent in last year's NC State-Virginia Tech dual, but Trent earned revenge against his Hokie counterpart at the ACC tournament in sudden victory. In their four meetings, the margin of victory for either athlete has never been more than two points, but Trent has separated himself a little bit this season and will be coming into this dual expecting a win. Bolen is 16-2 on the year with losses to Maryland’s Kyle Cochran and Cornell’s Jon Loew while Trent is undefeated with an 85.71% bonus rate. Bolen will be Trent's biggest test, but he still might not pose as big a threat to the Pack as his brother's opponent.

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Hayden Hidlay is set to take on Tech's Lewis, the first NCAA champion in Virginia Tech history. These two have never wrestled each other before, as Lewis was down at 165 pounds prior to this year, and Hayden was wrestling at 157 pounds. Could Lewis ruin Hidlay's perfect conference record? Could he spoil the Pack Party in Reynolds?

Lewis is 13-0 on the year with notable wins over Cornell's Chris Foca and Ohio State's Ethan Smith, but he's wrestled his matches closer than Hayden and wrestles a more controlled style than the wild chaos and speed of Hayden's wrestling approach. This is the match of the dual, and the winner will take over the No. 3 spot in the weight class, assuming No. 1 Carter Starocci of Penn State and No. 2 Michael Kemerer stay undefeated on the weekend.

2) Redemption opportunity for Camacho

While much of the spotlight will be on two Hidlay matches at 174 and 184 pounds for NC State fans, there's another match on the other end of the weight spectrum that has some emotion attached to it. NC State's 125-pound Jakob Camacho comes into the dual ranked No. 14, seven spots ahead of his opponent Sam Latona, but rankings aren't important to these guys. They know each other, they've wrestled each other, and they've battled against one another with everything on the line.

In last year's dual meet, Camacho and Latona took the mat as the final match of the dual, and the winner would secure the victory of his team. This one came down to the wire, but, in the end, it was Latona that stopped Camacho and sent Virginia Tech into a celebration frenzy. History repeated itself to a degree at the ACC Championships when Latona stopped Camacho again to win the weight, though NC State still managed to win the team title. The drama wasn't over though, as Latona navigated his NCAA tournament opponents slightly better than Camacho and earned a spot on the podium, while the NC State underclassmen fell short in the Blood Round.

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Heading into this year's dual, Camacho holds the better record, as he's 8-2 with losses to Spencer Lee and Noah Surtin while Latona is 6-6. A win against Latona for Camacho would reverse the trend of how this rivalry has gone so far, and an NC State victory at this weight would unquestionably put the Wolfpack faithful on their feet. If the dual starts at 133 pounds like it did last year, the winner of this match could be a hero, and Camacho will be chasing that honor.

3) Virginia Tech brings elite ACC energy

Virginia Tech and NC State are loaded at all ten weights, so while there's extra motivation tied to the 125, 174 and 184 pound weight classes for those athletes, these two rival teams will also have ranked matchups at 133 pounds, 149 pounds, 157 pounds, 197 pounds and 285 pounds.

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NC State has the edge on paper at 141 pounds where No. 15 Ryan Jack will likely face either unranked Sam Hillegas or unranked Collin Gerardi, and the Pack also come into the dual ranked higher at 165 pounds where No. 22 Thomas Bullard will have unranked Clayton Ulrey. 

In the remaining five ranked matchups, Tech has the advantage at two of the weights, with No. 5 Korbin Myers holding down a higher rank than his NC State counterpart Kai Orine, and No. 13 Nathan Traxler coming into the dual with a better record than No. 23 Owen Trephan of NC State at heavyweight. Myers and Orine have never met in college, nor have Traxler and Trephan, but both of the Hokie wrestlers bring added experience to the mat as both are wrestling in their seventh and sixth years of college, respectively, with the goal of bringing home more honors to their program.

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Myers finished fourth in last year's NCAA tournament and is chasing a title in his final year of eligibility while Traxler will be fighting for a podium spot after finishing in the Round of 12 last year for the second time in his career.  Their accolades and grit will make them formidable opponents for the Pack, so NC State will either need to push for a major upset or find points in other weights if they want to win the dual.

The Pack do have the advantage at 149, 157 and 197, as well as the aforementioned 125, 141 and 165 pounds, and, much like 125 pounds, the 149-pound weight will likely bring fireworks. Two-time All-American Tariq Wilson comes into the dual for NC State ranked No. 3, and he's set to take on No. 6 Bryce Andonian, who finished in the Round of 12 last year. These two have not met in college before, as Wilson has previously wrestled at 133 and 141 pounds, but they'll absolutely put some points on the board at this weight as both wrestle with a quick and slick style.

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Andonian has a 4-1 record so far this year with his only loss coming in a barnburner decision against NCAA finalist Sammy Sasso while Wilson has an undefeated record so far.The NC State grad student found his groove in last year's NCAA tournament and picked up wins over Sebastian Rivera and Chad Red by bonus but fell to third because of a pin by Jaydin Eierman in the semfinals. This year, up a weight, Wilson has to be in the title conversation, and if Andonian can push Wilson like he did Sasso, he has a chance for a big win here that could rise him up in the rankings and give him a better chance at a high NCAA tournament seed. Like all of the athletes in this dual, these two will see each other again in the ACC tournament, and the results from this battle could give fans a preview of what's to come when a conference title is on the line.

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The only other NC State wrestler in the top ten who has not been mentioned yet is No. 10 Ed Scott at 157 pounds, who will be taking on No. 23 Connor Brady of Virginia Tech. Scott has won eight consecutive duals, and he's on a mission to add to that total. Brady, on the other hand, is 11-2 with losses against Jacori Teemer and Quincy Monday. Brady qualified for the NCAA tournament last year after going 2-1 at the ACC tournament, while Ed Scott missed NCAAs last year after posting a 6-6 record in his first year as a starter. Up a weight at 157 pounds, Scott is wrestling better than ever, and he comes into this dual with a 16-1, his only loss coming against teammate AJ Kovacs at the Battle of the Citadel. Scott most recently beat Princeton's Monday 6-4, and momentum is on his side as he heads into this upcoming matchup.

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Last but not least is NC State's stellar underclassman Isaac Trumble at 197 pounds, who will have a challenge in No. 33 Dakota Howard. Trumble is 12-3 on the year with losses to Aidan Conner of Princeton, Jacob Warner of Iowa and Louie DePrez of Binghamton, but he’s a wild card and goes for big moves. Howard is 11-5 on the year and quailed for nationals last year, but these two have never met before in college. Trumble is fun to watch, and, with his crowd behind him, he'll be looking to separate himself from Howard on the scoreboard as much as possible.

Rankings offer some indication on how a dual might go, but, with these two teams, nothing is predictable. So settle in, this one is going to be interesting.

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