Wolfpack Sweeps ACC Wrestling Awards

Brett Friedlander

The NC State wrestling team swept through the dual meet schedule and ACC tournament with a perfect record, so it only makes sense that the Wolfpack should also sweep the league's postseason awards.

It did just that Tuesday, in historic fashion, with Hayden Hidlay earning Wrestler of the Year honors, Trent Hidlay winning the league's Freshman of the Year award and Pat Popolizio being named Coach of the Year.

The Hidlays dual honor marks the first time in ACC history that brothers have claimed both major awards, in the same season or otherwise.

Hayden, who won his third straight ACC championship at 157 pounds, is the 10th Wolfpack wrestler to be named the conference's top performer and the fifth to win the award in the past seven years. 

The redshirt junior finished the season with a 28-1 overall record (12-0 in dual matches). With a No. 2 national ranking heading into the NCAA Championships that were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, he stood a legitimate chance of winning the national championship that barely eluded him when he advanced to the finals as a freshman.

"It makes me really proud," Hayden said. "Even though this season didn't end in the circumstances I would of liked, this award still means a lot to me because it is an accumulation of a lot of things. To be rewarded with this (award), means a lot."

Younger brother Trent was the ACC runnerup at 184 pounds, a weight class that featured three wrestlers ranked among the top six in the nation. Hidlay finished the season at 23-4 (14-1 in dual meets) with six wins against ranked opponents and a No. 5 national ranking.

Between them, the brothers gained ACC Wrestler of the Week recognition five times this season.

"It means a lot to me, it proves what this (coaching) staff can do with young wrestlers," the redshirt freshman said. "It is an awesome award, especially considering how good the ACC was this year. It means a lot to me."

The individual awards were chosen by a vote of the ACC's head coaches, a group of peers that honored Popolizio for the second time in his seven seasons at State.

Under his leadership, the Wolfpack completed its first undefeated dual season in the 91-year history of the program and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the NWCA Coaches poll.

"These awards obviously go to more of a unit, a team, a staff, the athletes," Popolizio said. "I think it is a reflection of everybody that operates within our organization. It is a nice award to get, but at the end of the day, it is the people that are backing you that really put things in perspective."