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Hidlay grows from experience, ready for more

Former Husky finished 2nd at ‘21 NCAAs

Photo courtesy of Donnie Solomon/NCSU Wrestling
Mifflin County graduate and current NC State wrestler Trent Hidlay finishes a headlock on West Virginia’s Anthony Carman in his 2021 season debut to win by fall in 23 seconds. Hidlay is hungry for more this season after becoming the national runner-up in his first NCAA tournament.

RALEIGH, N.C. — For Mifflin County graduate Trent Hidlay, last season was all about taking the next step.

Hidlay rose to the occasion at every level and crossed off big milestones along the way, topping ACC nemesis Hunter Bolen in sudden victory to win his first ACC title at 184 pounds before grinding his way through the field at the NCAA championships to become the national runner-up in just his first NCAA tournament.

Year four for the NC State redshirt sophomore is all-about bringing the heat and continued growth in pursuit of another ACC crown and another shot at gold in March.

Hidlay has proven he’s more than capable of getting over the hump in the past. After finishing as the PIAA runner-up in 2016 as a sophomore for the Huskies, he insisted he wouldn’t let it happen again.

Not only did he did he finish his last two seasons a perfect 81-0 with two state titles, Hidlay didn’t surrender as much as a takedown in either of his final two seasons in a Husky singlet.

With a detailed look at improving technique and endless hours of preparation, Hidlay is back and ready to put the nation on notice once again, as he began the season as the third-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds, according to Intermat. Hidlay carries a career record of 58-8 into his redshirt-sophomore season.

“Last season was great. I think I wrestled really well at times, and just learned a lot about who I am as a wrestler and what I need to do to get better and jump to the next level,” Hidlay said. “I think I’ve proven that I can compete with anybody I wrestle with. So now the next challenge is being able to win those really tight matches and get over the hump of being the best guy in the weight class.”

Hidlay is as good as they come defensively and hopes that the time he spent refining his offense will pay big dividends.

“I think just kind of slowing it down and making sure I’m being offensive in matches is a huge thing for me,” Hidlay said. “I know my defense is good and I can do a good job of not giving up points, but against the best guys, you have to be able to score. You’ve got to be able to have more takedowns. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time kind of honing in on different techniques and stuff. Winning at the end of the day is always the goal, whether that’s in a dual meet, ACCs, or NCAAs, or even at the senior level. Every time I step on the mat, I expect myself to win. And I’m just continuing that mindset and continuing to grow as a wrestler, until I get to that final form that I want to be at.”

Hidlay’s path to the national final included tech fall victories over Oregon State’s Ryan Reyes and Alan Clothier, a 3-1 decision over Northern Illinois’ Brit Wilson and a 2-1 tiebreaker victory John Poznanski of Rutgers. Hidlay then dropped a tough 3-2 decision to Penn State’s Aaron Brooks in the final.

His first tournament run, coupled with the experience he gained before the NCAA tournament was canceled in 2020 that allowed him to exercise another year of NCAA eligibility, proved to be extremely beneficial for the Wolfpack’s 184-pounder.

“It is really valuable. Having the year kind of taken away and the NCAA Tournament canceled (in 2020), It was hard for a lot of people, myself included, because we’d had that whole year and it kind of got swept out from underneath us. It really gives you a new perspective on wrestling as a whole and just every time you compete, every time you can train, just being grateful for the opportunity to have that chance because you never know when it’s going to be taken away from you, so that’s been really good. That’s been a big motivating factor in my training and just my mindset in general, to get ready for matches.”

With Hayden Hidlay’s decision to exercise the extra year of eligibility, the Hidlay brothers now sit back-to-back in the NC State lineup with Hayden’s jump to 174 pounds after wrestling at 157 pounds a season ago. Both brothers picked up bonus-point victories in their season debuts against West Virginia. The sixth-ranked Wolfpack dusted the Mountaineers, 34-6.

“I’m really fired up about it. Really glad about (Hayden’s) decision to come back,” Hidlay said. “I think he’s got a lot a lot left in the tank to give, and he knows that. We all know how good Hayden is. He’s one of the best to ever do it in this county, one of the best to ever do it at NC State, and he’s one of the best guys in the country. I’m excited to be back in the lineup, kind of back-to-back with him. It brings a lot of excitement to not only us, but our team and our fans. It’s all good energy and we’re gearing up for one final run together. It’s really special for us.”

All in all, Hidlay trusts his training and is more than ready to run the gauntlet with the Wolfpack in pursuit of their fourth consecutive ACC team championship during the 2021-22 season.

NC State will compete in its second dual meet of the season tonight when it hosts Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m.

“I definitely learned a lot going into (this season),” Hidlay said. “I had some positions and things I knew I needed to work on, physically, and just mentally continuing to lock in the mindset — I think is really important in a sport like wrestling — but I’ve definitely gained a lot this (offseason) and I’ve grown as a wrestler and just have a new appreciation for the opportunities I have. I’m really looking forward to (this year) and bringing the heat.”

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