History will be made Friday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. For the first time ever in DI wrestling, two North Carolina teams will square off, both of which are currently ranked in the top-ten nationally. The eighth-ranked Tar Heels of North Carolina will make the 28-mile trip to take on third-ranked NC State with first place in the ACC on the line. Remarkably, three ACC schools are now in the top ten (Virginia Tech 9th) and another is sitting at 16 (Pittsburgh). That’s a far cry from the late 1990s and 2000s when the Tar Heels went from 1998-2012 with only three All-Americans. NC State only had three during that span, as well. Both schools have made full 180 degree turns as they each started the 2019-20 season with a preseason number one on their team.
Led by Coleman Scott, who is in the midst of his fifth season at the helm for North Carolina, the Tar Heels are a team that has gradually improved during each year of his tenure. Last season, North Carolina placed two wrestlers on the NCAA podium for a second straight year. That hadn’t happened in Chapel Hill since 1994 and 1995. The 2019-20 version of the Tar Heels is a young group that only features one senior in the starting lineup, but has amassed a record this season of 11-1. Scott’s squad kicked off their dual season in late-January with a 23-10 shellacking of a Virginia Tech that was previously unbeaten. Three other teams that have been ranked, Michigan, Army West Point, and Princeton have been handed losses courtesy of the boys in Carolina blue.
NC State is ahead of their in-state counterparts in the development of the program under eighth-year head coach Pat Popolizio. The Wolfpack made school and ACC history by becoming the first school in the history of the conference to win a trophy at the NCAA Championships, when they were fourth at the 2017 tournament. Under Popolizio, seven different wrestlers have combined to earn All-American honors 12 times, including two different national champions. The current Wolfpack team is sitting at third in the nation after a 12-0 start. The team has not been seriously tested in dual competition as their win over Pittsburgh on Saturday provided their closest margin of victory (21-12). That isn’t to say that NC State hasn’t wrestled anyone, they do own wins over Princeton, Cornell, and Virginia.
Here’s what to expect at each weight class as these two rivals clash on Friday. TOM will provide predictions at each weight class while WrestleStat has projections of their own.
125 lbs - Joey Melendez (North Carolina) vs. #19 Jakob Camacho (NC State)
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