Jan. 10, 2014
PREVIEW: Wrestling to Compete in Four Duals This Weekend
RALEIGH, N.C. - Brian Hamann, one of five current highly regarded freshman starters on Wolfpack coach Pat Popilizio’s Wolfpack wrestling team, is having a stellar first season in Raleigh.
The Jackson, N.J., native is sporting a 14-5 record as the Pack’s starter at 149 pounds, and is looking forward to the Pack’s road trip this weekend for four duals in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Pack will face ACC foe Pittsburgh that currently ranked 12th nationally on Saturday, and compete Sunday against Clarion, Eastern Michigan and Seton Hill.
“The coaches expect a lot from us,” Hamann emphasized earlier this week. “This will be a test (this weekend) on how we are as a team. We have ability and are going to shock a lot of people this year. We have a lot of talent.”
To date, Hamann has been ranked multiple weeks and is 3-2 in duals this season. He also produced a streak of six consecutive wins in November.
At 149 pounds (compared to 138 in high school), he has scored three victories over ranked opponents, including one medical forfeit.
Two of those triumphs came over opponents ranked 14th – Caleb Ervin (Illinois, 5-3) and Chris Castillo (Boise State, 5-0).
Hamann started wrestling at six years of age.
“I brought home brochures from (the recreation league),” he remembered. “My older brother wanted to play basketball. But our parents wanted us to play the same sports.”
The Hamann family consisted of six siblings – three brothers and three sisters. Having two of the brothers participating in wrestling helped the parents alleviate potential scheduling and transportation conflicts.
“We wrestled in a good amount of tournaments, especially in middle school,” Hamann recalled. “In high school we participated in some national tournaments.”
He finished his prep career at Jackson Memorial High School with a 121-25 record. In 2011, Hamann finished fourth in the state tournament in the 103-pound class. He was also fourth at the 2012 championships in the 126-pound class.
During his senior year in 2013, his weight increased to 138 pounds and he placed fifth.
With Hamann’s outstanding prep record, it didn’t take long for Coach Popilizio to come calling.
“I got an email and a call from Coach,” Hamann noted. “I visited the school and the coaches. Everything looked good. It’s a very nice campus here. I liked the coaches and the team.”
“Brian has come out of nowhere (as a freshman),” Coach Popilizio stated. “We brought in 23 freshmen and had one of the better recruiting classes in the country. Our goal is to compete right away but we also realize we have to have patience with such a young team.
“We recruit guys with character as well as talent. Brian certainly has both”
Hamann enjoys team success as much as individual achievement – in a sport that centers on single encounters. “I like it when the whole team wins,” Hamann surmised.
Like most freshmen, it has taken a semester for Hamann to get adjusted to living away from home, the college environment, academics, time management and practice schedules.
“I’ve got a handle on things,” Hamann reflected. “This second semester should be a lot easier.”
He said the first semester was difficult because of the previously mentioned factors. It’s a process all freshmen encounter.
Adjusting to the practice schedule also requires discipline that wasn’t present in high school.
“I think the coaches helped us with the transition,” he said. Besides an early daily practice time of 9 a.m., we also lift three times a week.”
Coach Popilizio and his staff changed the practice schedule for the second semester. “We figured the 9 a.m. schedule would help our guys to focus a little better as compared to the afternoon schedule during the first semester.
“A big factor in helping the kids to get adjusted is getting them everything they need to be successful. Our coaches try to see that their needs are met.”
The Pack wrestling team exhibits quite a bit of youth. Besides the five freshmen, there are also two sophomores – of 10.
“This is only the beginning,” Hamann reflected. “We’re going to get a lot better.”
It’s been six years since Pack wrestling has won one of its 14 Atlantic Coast Conference championships, and Hamann and his recruiting classmates are the first building blocks Coach Popilizio believes will be instrumental in leading the team towards winning another league title in the near future.
In just his second season as the Pack’s head coach, Popilizio is hoping to put back-to-back prolific recruiting classes together.
By George Cox