Unless you're stuck in Plato's cave, you may be unaware that NCAA wrestling practice officially started yesterday. Which means we have come to our final lineup look of the year.
NC State has been a huge part of marching the ACC forward ever since Pat Popolizio took over. The Wolfpack start the year ranked 12th with half their lineup ranked, buoyed by senior All-Americans Kevin Jack and Pete Renda.
Coach Popolizio and his staff like to keep their options open, so there will be guys splitting time; there are roster battles still to hash out and redshirts ready to be pulled.
Projected NC State Lineup125: No. 10 Sean Fausz/Tommy Cox
133: Tariq Wilson
141: No. 2 Kevin Jack
149: No. 13 (at 133) Jamal Morris/#17 Beau Donahue
157: Hayden Hidlay
165: Brian Hamann
174: Daniel Bullard
184: No. 3 Pete Renda
197: No. 10 Michael Macchiavello
285: Michael Boykin/Malik McDonald
The Wolfpack don't have a senior on their roster at 125, and all the underclassmen have redshirts available, so they have some options to play with. Things may change once the season starts, but the plan right now is for last year's starter Sean Fausz to split time with sophomore Tommy Cox. Fausz made the round of 12 last season, and is favored to meet Dalton Macri of North Carolina in the ACC finals.
Tariq Wilson impressed at the Junior Open in Vegas in April, and looks to be the clubhouse leader at 133. Wilson perfectly fits the mold of an NC State wrestler: long, lanky, and tough on top. He was No. 66 on the 2016 Big Board, on NC State's No. 1-ranked recruiting class.
Kevin Jack has been the face of the program since Nick Gwiazdowski graduated, and now enters his final season as one of the few guys who can knock off Dean Heil. Jack is 1-2 all-time against Heil, and has placed third and fifth at NCAAs. The timing on his shots really improved last year, making him nearly as dangerous on his feet as he is on the mat. Watch him finally get his win over Bryce Meredith below.
There will be an interesting battle at 149. With Kevin Jack firmly entrenched at 141, Jamal Morris is coming up to face Beau Donahue for the spot. However, Morris may also certify at 133 in case an injury happens to Wilson. Right now, Morris is ranked 13th at 133 and started there last season. Like many wrestlers on NC State's roster, No. 17 Donahue has seen multiple weights, wrestling everywhere from 141 to 157 during his career.
Moving forward, Who's #1 alum Hayden Hidlay will likely be the face of the program. He'll start his (very likely) four-year run as a starter this year at 157 pounds. The redshirt freshman lives off his underhook, but has also grown into an explosive leg attacker, perhaps best typified by his blast double on Evan Wick at the Junior Trials. Hidlay is not one of the six wrestlers to start the year ranked, giving the Wolfpack massive potential to expand their projected point total right now.
With a redshirt available to Thomas Bullard, an NCAA qualifier at 157 last year, 165 should be manned by senior Brian Hamann once again. Hamann has had an interesting career, starting his freshman year at 149 in 2014, but then not being a starter again until last season. He was 21-13 last season with nine bonus point wins.
At 174, last year's starter in Nick Reenan is likely redshirting as he begins the transition up to 184, which means Daniel Bullard takes the reins after a 15-8 redshirt season, placing at three opens. He finished high school No. 42 on the 2016 Big Board.
One of the more under-the-radar wrestlers in the country is Pete Renda. He was third at NCAAs in 2016 and is ranked third after redshirting last season. Renda was very active in freestyle, making the University National finals, and also wrestling in the Bill Farrell and U.S. Open. In folkstyle, Renda placed fifth at Midlands, and won both the National Collegiate (finals match below) and Wolfpack Opens.
Bumping to 197 is Michael Macchiavello, who was round of 12 last year. He starts the year ranked 10th in what many people consider is a weaker weight than 184 was last season. Macchiavello lives above the knee on single legs, always looking to get a foot off the ground.
The final roster battle is at heavyweight. Senior Michael Boykin is the only heavyweight listed on the roster, but junior Malik McDonald will be coming up from 197 to try to take the spot. McDonald was 20-11 as an NCAA qualifier at 197, while Boykin similarly bumped up from 197 in 2016 when he made the national tournament. For what it's worth, McDonald pinned Boykin at University Nationals back in June.