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Hayden Hidlay honored by the ACC

MC grad is ACC Wrestler of the Year

Courtesy of NC STATE COMMUNICATIONS Mifflin County graduate Hayden Hidlay, center, finished the 2019-2020 season with a 28-1 record and his third consecutive ACC Championship. Hidlay is undefeated against ACC opponents in his collegiate career.

RALEIGH — Success has followed Mifflin County graduate and NC State wrestler Hayden Hidlay in every stage of his wrestling career and on Tuesday, the 157-pounder added another honor to his long list of accolades.

Hidlay was named the 2019-20 ACC Wrestler of the Year by the ACC league office. Hidlay finished his junior season 28-1 and won his third-straight ACC championship earlier this month in Pittsburgh.

He helped lead the Wolfpack to a perfect 15-0 mark in dual meets, the first undefeated season in the 91-year history of the program. The Wolfpack finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country.

Hidlay is undefeated in his NCAA career against ACC opponents and is the 11th wrestler in NC State history to win three ACC crowns.

“I think that the ACC has really been where I have made a living in my career,” Hidlay said. “It’s meant a lot to me to be out there in high-profile dual meets to try and bring home that dual championship, which we have done three times. We’ve won the conference championship at the tournament twice when I’ve been here. We go through so much as a team, and to be able to come away with an ACC Championship is what we work to do, and it’s kind of the expectation now. Just showing up at the ACC Tournament, I’ve done really well there the last two years.”

The award is one that means a lot to Hidlay, especially in a season with no national tournament.

“I think being rewarded as ACC Wrestler of the Year is important and I think it’s something to hold onto, especially because the season ended the way that it did and you don’t really have much closure,” Hidlay said. “I think being awarded with that makes me really proud. It’s an accumulation of everything you’ve done throughout the year. The fact that I was able to be ACC Wrestler of the Year — especially this year because there were four teams in the Top 10 for most of the year — to be the best guy in that conference is pretty special.”

The cancellation of the NCAA Championships was a tough blow for the junior who was ranked in the Top 3 at 157 pounds throughout the 2019-20 season.

It was stressful,” Hidlay said. “Throughout the week, they were making changes almost every day it seemed like. After a while, you start to think that no good could come from it and they would cancel it. We all felt like that.

“Our AD Boo Corrigan, and our coach Pat Popolizio called us all together as a team and told us that it was canceled. It was just a very vulnerable moment for a lot of our team. It feels very confusing, because as a competitor, you are used to having closure. You accept the highs of winning and the lows of losing and I think all of us weren’t prepared for that.”

Hidlay plans to find the silver lining in the experience and take advantage of his senior season with the Wolfpack.

“The good thing is that all of the starters on our team have another year. For me, it is what it is,” he said. “I think not having the opportunity to find out — nobody has really been tasked with that — is hard. It’s a new thing we are all struggling with and I feel like I only need one shot and I’m holding onto that. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I don’t really have any regrets.”

Along with the national title hopes, Hidlay also hopes to take advantage of another season to prepare for the Olympic Trials, finishing his collegiate season in front of friends and family at the Bryce Jordan Center, if Penn State still hosts the trials in 2021.

“Winning an NCAA Championship qualifies you for the Olympic Trials, so when NCAAs were canceled I was concerned, because I didn’t have many opportunities left to qualify for the Olympic Trials, but now that everything is pushed back, I kind of have all of next year to qualify for the trials and I’m in pretty good standing to be able to do that,” Hidlay said. “It’s obviously nice to have it be completely after my collegiate career is over to try and make that team. I think that is something to look forward to. I’m guessing it’s still going to be held at the Bryce Jordan Center and it would just be something nice to finish out my collegiate year on, by coming back close to my hometown in front of family and friends that want to be there.

“I think that would be a really great goal to be able to wrestle at the trials. The expectations of me being able to make the team are not too great for anyone outside of my family members probably, but I still hold onto that dream. I’ll be very young compared to a lot of the others there and I’ll try to find a weight class that would work for me, but it would be a great opportunity to be able to go and do that.”

Hidlay finished his career at Mifflin County High School with an overall record of 149-15 and a state championship in 2016.

“Looking back at high school I had a very interesting ride to the top I guess you would say,” Hidlay said. “As a freshman I didn’t really have myself figured out yet. I had some success, but I didn’t place at the state tournament. Comparing that to my freshman year in college, it was like a complete 180. I had everything figured out and I did really well at the end of the year. I felt like high school was a lot tougher for me to get adjusted to. I don’t have anywhere close to the nerves at the NCAA Championships that I did at the PIAA championships, which is kind of crazy to think about. As you grow older and you realize you’ve went through those experiences, it helps you out.”

With Hayden’s brother, Trent, winning ACC Freshman of the Year, the duo became the first pair of brothers to win the ACC’s major wrestling awards in the same season — they’re also the first set of brothers to ever do so.

Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin is elated with the success of his former wrestlers.

“I am so proud of the legacy Hayden and Trent are building at the collegiate level,” Martin said. “They are a constant source of pride for the wrestling community in Mifflin County. Hayden and Trent are representative of the type of wrestler I want our wrestlers at all levels to copy.”

For Hidlay, the focus is on enjoying the ride.

“I think at times we have to step back and realize that we are living through our dream,” Hayden said. “It’s hard at times when you face adversity, but I would never have been able to imagine this 12-15 years ago, doing this with my brother and being able to live out this dream. It’s been really lucky and the success that has come with it has been great. I think it is well deserved, especially for him. We still have a lot left to prove and as long as we have each other, we will have fun, and that’s all that matters.”

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