Top Five Storylines of 2014

With 2014 hours away from being over, Pack Pride looks back at the five biggest stories for NC State athletics in the past year.

It certainly can be debated, and we left off great stories like Carlos Rodon's junior season and the Wolfpack's impact in the Super Bowl among others, but here is our look at the five biggest stories in 2014 for NC State athletics.


5. BREAKING GROUND

In August, a ceremony to dedicate the Wolfpack’s new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility was held on the construction site adjacent to Carter-Finley Stadium.

Projected to be completed in the spring of 2015, the Close-King Indoor Practice Facility, a privately-funded $17.2 million facility, will boast a full, 120-yard football field with a roof height sufficient for kicking game and suspended goal posts. There will be additional training and conditioning space beyond both end zones and four sprint lanes down the full length of the field.

Other features include an in-ground and above-ground pads for long jump, triple jump, high jump and other track events, end zone and 50-yardline viewing platforms, clerestory windows and glass roll-up doors to allow natural daylight, a complete sound system, and support areas for equipment, strength and conditioning and sports medicine.

The project is a huge statement, not only to head coach Dave Doeren and current Wolfpack players but also to recruits that NC State has made a major commitment to providing the best support possible for future success.

"This is going to be one of the most complete set-ups in the country," said Doeren. "It will help us immensely developing our team in the offseason.

"It's a united mission to win a championship and be committed to the cause. There is great commitment in our university. You can see it."

While this probably had no impact on the 2014 season, it's going to pay huge dividends for the Wolfpack football program, and other sports, moving forward.

4. INSTANT IMPACT

It didn't take long for NC State women's basketball coach Wes Moore to prove his worth.

Moore, who was in his first season at NC State, led the Wolfpack women to a 25-8 record while being named ACC Coach Of The Year.

The list of accomplishments was lengthy.

The Wolfpack women spent 11 straight weeks in the AP and USA Today top-25 polls and had the program's first AP top-10 ranking since 2001. The team's 21-3 start was the best since 1981-82, and the Wolfpack won 10 games over top-100 RPI teams and four versus AP top-20 opponents.

NC State finished the year 14-2 at home and finished fourth in the ACC despite being picked 10th in the preseason.

Moore's early success isn't surprising.

Regarded as one of the top coaches in women's basketball, he arrived in Raleigh after spending 15 seasons at Tennessee Chattanooga where he led UTC to 12 Southern Conference (SoCon) regular season titles, nine SoCon tournament championships, and nine NCAA Tournament berths, while becoming the winningest coach in UTC and SoCon history.

He also was named SoCon Coach of the Year six times.

Moore followed up his outstanding inaugural season by signing a consensus Top 20 recruiting class in November.

It's safe to say the future is bright for the Wolfpack women's hoops program.

3. NC STATE'S NATIONAL CHAMP

When Nick Gwiazdowski first arrived at N.C. State after transferring from Binghamton, the Delanson (NY) native was told he would achieve great things with the Wolfpack wrestling program.

After only one season on the mat, the redshirt junior has already fulfilled that promise.

Gwiazdowski earned a 4-2 victory over two-time defending national champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota in March to become the third heavyweight to earn a national crown at N.C. State and first since 1993, when Sylvester Terkay accomplished the feat. The legendary Tab Thacker was the first heavyweight to win the national championship for the Pack in 1984.

Having faced and defeated Nelson twice over the summer, along with finishing the season 42-2 overall, including 20-0 in duals, Gwiazdowski had a comfort level entering the final match.

"When I came to N.C. State, [assistant head coach Frank] Beasley told me I was going to be a three-time national champion with what we can do," Gwiazdowski said. "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."

With the win, Gwiazdowski won his final 20 matches, with 11 of his last 15 victories of the campaign coming against ranked opponents. Also an ACC Champion, his 42 wins set a new school record.

For Gwiazdowski, the victory in the final was a culmination of hard work. However, with two years remaining at State, he is not resting on his laurels.

"Hopefully I can keep getting better," he said. "I don't want to take any steps backwards. I just want to keep moving forward and build on what I have accomplished this year and hopefully do it two more times."

Nick Gwiazdowski... NCAA National Champion.

2. PACK FOOTBALL TURNS THE CORNER
When will Dave Doeren win an ACC game? Remember when that questioned was being asked? It wasn't that long ago, but it's an afterthought right now.

NC State sat at 4-4 overall and 0-4 in the ACC after a road loss at Louisville, a game that the Pack had a chance to win but couldn't make enough plays down the stretch. Coming off a bye, they headed up to Syracuse for a road game against the Orange, and it was a pivotal matchup for the Wolfpack.

Looming was a home game against Georgia Tech, the best team in the Coastal Division, and rivalry matchups with Wake Forest and North Carolina that weren't expected to be easy.

NC State left Syracuse victorious, and the monkey was off the team's back... Dave Doeren had his first ACC win.

"I'm excited to get it," he said afterwards. "Winning it on the road means a lot to me too. That's something that's been a problem here in the past, and I'm glad to have that one. It's good to be back on the winning side of things."

The game jump-started the Pack, who finished the regular season by winning three of four games to go 7-5 in Doeren's second season... including a dominating 35-7 win over rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

State was rewarded with a trip to the 2014 Bitcoin Bowl, where they cruised past Central Florida 34-27 to secure the team's eighth win and Doeren's first bowl victory in Raleigh.

There are a few questions about the Pack heading into 2015, but far from as many as there were last December 31st. With potentially 15 returning starters and a favorable schedule, the Wolfpack could contend for the Atlantic Division crown in Doeren's third year.

At the very least, it looks like his program has turned the corner and is on the rise.

1. A SPECIAL YEAR FOR WARREN

The biggest storyline of 2014 was an easy choice... T.J. Warren's special season

Warren, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Tony, a former NC State basketball standout, led the Wolfpack to a NCAA Tournament berth with a remarkable sophomore campaign.

Most thought Warren could have a good year after flashing as a freshman, but no one... no one, expected the type of season he ended up having.

He set the school single-season record for points scored as he finished the year averaging 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds on 52.5% shooting from the field. He led the ACC in scoring and field goal percentage, and was also among the league leaders in steals and rebounding.

For his efforts, Warren became just the sixth player in NC State history to be named ACC Player of the Year, joining legends Ronnie Shavlik, Lou Pucillo, David Thompson, Rodney Monroe, and Julius Hodge.

"I'm very excited for T.J.," said head coach Mark Gottfried after Warren won the award. "It's an award that's well-deserved. I think he earned it. I think he improved a great deal from a year ago, and he played at a high level all year long. I'm very excited for him, and I think his teammates are as well.

"It says a lot and will say a lot for the history of our program. He came here as a sophomore... a lot of times we forget he's only a sophomore. To have the year he had, I think it puts his name up there with some of the great players that have been here. I think he's deserving of that."

He was named All-American by several publications before declaring for the NBA Draft and being selected in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

The type of season Warren had doesn't happen often when you factor in his high scoring rate and the efficiency at which he put up numbers. He wasn't a "gunner" and he produced for a team that was winning games and competitive on a nightly basis.

"NC State means a lot to me," Warren said at the end of the season. "Being able to wake up in the morning knowing I play for NC State, knowing that my dad played here, it is a great honor. Being able to put that jersey on knowing that a lot of greats that came through the program, David Thompson, Julius Hodge, Rodney Monroe, Chris Corchiani, there is a lot of greats.

"I just try to live up to the tradition and have that will to win and lead the team."

Warren spent only two seasons in the Red and White, but he left as one of the best to ever play for the Wolfpack.




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