Five members of the Wolfpack wrestling team will travel to St. Louis, Mo. to compete in the NCAA Championship beginning on Thursday. For Gwiazdowski, it will be a chance to win a second straight national championship after claiming the honor last season. NC State has six wrestlers that have won a national title in its history but none have earned back-to-back championships.
For Gwiazdowski, the opportunity to win a second straight NCAA title is thrilling. The native of Delanson, NY has won 50 straight matches entering postseason.
“It is exciting,” Gwiazdowski said. “I am ready to wrestle; it has been a long two weeks for me since the ACC [Championship]. I am just ready to kick it off and go out there and wrestle for another championship. I am undefeated but there is a lot of really good wrestlers in there.
“The way different people wrestled me, you’d see different looks and people trying different game plans to get you but overall I have passed every test so far and it has made me better. Everyone wants to beat you [when you are the defending national champion]. Even if you have losses or you are undefeated. That is kind of what it is like but I am ready for it.”
Gwiazdowski followed head coach Pat Popolizio to NC State from Binghamton following the 2012 season. His head coach feels he has the mental makeup to excel in the NCAA Championships once again.
“Anytime you have to repeat as a defending national champ, you’ve got guys that are targeting you and obviously have been scouting you all year,” Popolizio said. “He will deal with those kind of adversities but I think he is in a position, from what he has been tested with all season. He will be ready for it.”
Joining Gwiazdowski in St. Louis to compete for national honors is redshirt-senior Joe DeAngelo (125 pounds) and freshman Kevin Mack (141 pounds), along with sophomores Max Rohskopf (165 pounds) and Pete Renda (174 pounds).
DeAngelo and Renda will be making their second trips to the NCAA Championships while it will be the third time for Gwiazdowski, who also finished eighth overall in 2012 with Binghamton to earn All-American honors.
That brings the total of NCAA qualifiers to 13 in the three years since Popolizio was hired. That is the most in a three-year span since 2007-09.
NC State placed sixth with 31 points at the ACC Championship, with Gwiazdowski earning his second consecutive conference title. The Wolfpack was victorious in five of its last six matches and nine of the previous 11 to close out the regular season.
Gwiazdowski feels that overall it has been a successful season for the Pack, who finished the regular season ranked No. 17 in the final USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll and 14th overall by InterMat.com.
“If you look at the record that we put up this year and the people that were on the team, I think it is a great year,” Gwiazdowski said. “We beat a handful of teams that we really had no shot against. The way we finished at the end of the year--maybe on a low point at the ACC Championships--but throughout the dual meet season, guys stepping up in dual meets and the freshmen stepping up, it is exciting to know where we are going to the future.”
“I am happy with the overall year. It is not over yet though so I can’t speak too soon.”