March 22, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Redshirt-sophomore Nick Gwiazdowski of the NC State wrestling team became the program's sixth national champion Saturday night, as he captured a 4-2 win over top-seed Tony Nelson of Minnesota in the finals at 285 pounds at the 2014 NCAA Championships.
Gwiazdowski is NC State's sixth individual to win a wrestling national title, and the third heavyweight following in the footsteps of Tab Thacker in 1984 and Sylvester Terkay in 1993.
"Right now I can't really believe it," said Gwiazdowski. "When I came to NC State, (coach) Beasley told me I'm going to be a three-time national champion with what we can do (here). The first step, it's always in the back of my mind. So that's good. It's like I beat this guy before. I can do it again. And if anything, I've gotten better since that point."
After a scoreless first period, Gwiazdowski chose bottom to start second and was unable to escape Nelson's hold as Nelson recorded 2:00 of ride time. To start the third, Gwiazdowski gave up the escape point but then scored the match's first takedown to go up 2-1.
Nelson then took an injury timeout due to an injured left ankle, and when the competition resumed Gwiazdowski chose to start neutral. With 30 seconds left, Gwiazdowski got a hold of Nelson's leg and kept his right foot inbounds, recorded the decisive takedown with 21 seconds left, and rode Nelson the rest of the bout. Nelson got a point for ride time, but Gwiazdowski took the final 4-2.
Gwiazdowski finished the season 42-2, establishing a new single season wins record at NC State. To finish the 2013-14 campaign, he won his last 20 matches and 11 of his final 15 wins were all against ranked opponents. The 2014 ACC Champion, Gwiazdowski went a perfect 20-0 in duals this year.
"We are obviously very excited for Nick and for our program," said head coach Pat Popolizio. "There is a lot of coaching history with us and Nick, he is a sport and always has the right attitude both on an off the mat.
"Our team has made huge strides from last year. We set out to be a top-25 team and accomplished that this year. We have a great group of guys, and this national championship is a huge accomplishment for all of us."
Overall, NC State placed 19th at the 2014 NCAA Championships, its first top-25 finish since 2009. The Pack was the second-highest finisher among ACC teams, only 2014 ACC champion Virginia Tech (eighth) finished higher then NC State. In addition to Gwiadowski's national championship at 285 pounds, the Pack had four others compete at the NCAA Championships.
Junior Tommy Gantt missed All-America honors by one spot, as he placed ninth at 157 pounds. Sophomore Sam Speno automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second straight year and went 2-2 including an upset of the fifth seed at 141 pounds. Redshirt-senior KaRonne Jones (197) and freshman Pete Renda (174) also competed this weekend.
Under second-year head coach Pat Popolizio NC State has been on the fast track to success. Before Popolizio took over the Wolfpack program, NC State finished 56th nationally in both 2010 and 2011 and 44th in 2012.
With seven new starters in his first season at NC State last year, Popolizio had three wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Championships and the Pack finished 63rd overall.
In addition to results on the mat, Popolizio and his staff compiled the 10th-best recruiting class in 2013 and the 17th-best nationally in 2014 according to WIN Magazine.
"Congratulations to Nick on a remarkable accomplishment," said NC State Director of Athletics Debbie Yow. "Wolfpack Nation loves wrestling and appreciates the extraordinary progress made by Coach Pop, his staff and our athletes in two short years. This is only the beginning of what promises to become a top program, both in the ACC and nationally."