The result was unexpected and the ending was surreal. The reaction was appropriately respectful.
When Nick Gwiazdowski's two-year reign as national champion ended against Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder something seemed amiss, despite the current World Freestyle Champion’s wonderful pedigree entering the match.
Gwiazdowski led 3-0 in the second period and 5-2 midway through the third. The wheels fell off in the waning seconds and Snyder managed to send the match into overtime where he would pull out a 7-5 victory.
There may have never been a world champion who was also an underdog but Snyder pulled off an upset, snatching victory and the national title from the jaws of defeat.
The reigning two-time champ seemed tired and somehow not quite himself despite being seconds away from a third title. Afterwards he lamented not simply stalling to claim the win in regulation but warriors usually go out fighting.
At the end of the match it was seemingly unclear just how it happened and the confusion was befitting a wrestler with 88-straight victories coming into the final.
While it was confusing as to how Gwiazdowski managed to lose, the reverence the university and the fan base showed its hero was clear.
There was no discernible anger, bewilderment or second-guessing. It was as if those who followed the match in support of Gwiazdowski universally understood the moments immediately afterward required a gentler approach.
That was appropriate. An All-American in each of his four seasons, including his freshman year when he earned the honor at Binghamton before following Pat Popolizio to NC State after the 2012 campaign, Gwiazdowski has earned a special status limited to a select few.
The second his college career ended the march towards NC State immortality began in earnest. Gwiazdowski is not simply a terrific student-athlete in his school’s history but, in fact, he may be its greatest.
A spot on a mythical NC State ‘Mount Rushmore’ of best athletes would have to feature Gwiazdowski almost by default. His two national championships and near-third put him on the top of a mountain that no one has ever reached in the 129 years since the University was founded.
Even the greatest of heroes is not perfect. As such, Gwiazdowski's return to NC State after the trip to the NCAA Championships in New York City could have been an agonizing accentuation of the one blight.
Instead it was merely an extension and then transformation of the celebration that began in 2014 when it was Gwiazdowski who upset a two-time national champion to win his first title.
The latest and perhaps greatest NC State immortal can now expect that devotion to only grow as time goes on. It is almost Shakespearean. Gwiazdowski came up a few seconds short of perfection but the story is epic and will be retold for years. While there are other glories ahead, he is a Wolfpack legend for eternity.