During this week's podcast I brought up the idea that if you were a college wrestling fan in the state of North Carolina this upcoming season may be the greatest ever for the state. When I thought more about the idea listening to the episode I thought I would elaborate.
The incredible thing about this year for North Carolina is that it's not just one program or one wrestler. Intermat has North Carolina & North Carolina State tied for 10th in the latest rankings.
Defending 2-time NCAA Champ Nick Gwiazdowski leads the North Carolina State surging program. Him and Head Coach Pat Papolizio came over from Binghamton and have quickly made huge strides. They return another All-American in Kevin Jack and a slew of ranked wrestlers. It looks to be a huge statement year for the Wolfpack.
North Carolina made some headlines for some off the mat reasons, but the situation ended up with Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott at the helm. They boast 2-time All-American Evan Henderson returning from redshirt and ranked #1 at 141 lbs. Ethan Ramos, along with Henderson, won University Nationals in freestyle this summer and Ramos starts the season at #4 at 165.
Duke returns 2-time All-American Conner Hartmann who went to high school on the peninsula in Washington. He looks to lead an improving Blue Devil squad coming off their highest ever program finish.
Also, it would foolish to not mention Cary Kolat is coaching the Campbell Camels. Many expect him to make a splash in his 2nd season at the helm. Kolat is known as one of the best technicians in the country so although it's a tall hill to climb, many expect great strides will be made this season. Junior Ville Heino had a strong showing at the Senior World Championships competing for Finland. He won his first two matches before falling to the Iranian. Heino was not pulled in to repechage.
I went through the Intermat rankings and looked by state how many guys were ranked in the top 8 of their weight classes. By state being where the college is that they compete for. Only Pennsylvania (11), Iowa (10), and Oklahoma (8) had more than North Carolina who has 7 guys competing in the state ranked in the top 8. That's pretty crazy to think of all the other strong wrestling states, but North Carolina has some growing programs making big strides. This may be a particularly strong year, but these programs are growing quickly. Maybe it's just a sign of things to come.