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Gwiazdowski, NC State win ACC Title, five qualify for NCAA Championships

Posted March 8, 2014
Updated April 17, 2014

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Led by Nick Gwiazdowski’s ACC Championship at 285 pounds, the NC State wrestling team had five individuals earn NCAA automatic bids thanks to their performances at the 2014 ACC Championship Saturday in Blacksburg.

Under second-year head coach Pat Popolizio, the Pack will be sending at least five individuals to the NCAA Championships for only the third time over the past 10 years. The ACC was allocated varying NCAA automatic qualifying spots in each weight class by the NCAA last week.

Gwiazdowski was one of three NC State wrestlers to find their way onto the podium at the 60th annual ACC Championship. He becomes the first Pack wrestler to win an individual title since Darrion Caldwell in 2011, and his title is the 111th for NC State in ACC history. In addition to the Pack’s title at 285 pounds, junior Tommy Gantt placed second at 157 pounds, while freshman Pete Renda was third at 174 pounds.

• Nick Gwiazdowski - NCAA Qualifier - 1st place at 285 pounds. As the top-seed, Gwiazdowski had to wait around for quite some time before he took the mat. As the Pack arrived at Cassell Coliseum at 6:45 a.m. for a morning workout and weigh-ins, Gwiazdoswki’s first bout of the day did not come until past 3 p.m. The long wait had no affect on him, as Gwiazdowski scored a pin over Virginia Tech’s Ty Walz 4:57 into his semifinal bout. Gwiazdowski earned ACC Championship gold when he defeated #9 Stephen Myers of Maryland in the finals, 10-4.

• Tommy Gantt - NCAA Qualifier - 2nd place at 157 pounds. Coming in as the second-seed, Gantt breezed to the championship bout. First he took out Danny Orem of Maryland with a 14-2 major decision then downed #24 Immanuel Kerr-Brown of Duke in the semifinals, 7-3. In the championship bout, Gantt came up just short against #14 Blaise Butler of Virginia, 3-2.

• Pete Renda - NCAA Qualifier - 3rd place at 174 pounds. Renda was the third-seed at 174 pounds, and was fighting for one of three NCAA automatic bids. Renda won his first round match avenging a regular season loss to Duke’s Try Adamson of Duke, 7-3. Renda fell 2-0 in the semifinals, but closed out with two straight wins. He shutout Matthew Snook of Maryland 4-0, and his 5-0 win over Virginia Tech’s Austin Gabel earned him a NCAA bid and third place finish at the ACCs.

• Sam Speno - NCAA Qualifier - 4th place at 141 pounds. Speno entered as the six-seed, and there were five NCAA bids up for grabs at 141 pounds. After dropping his first bout to #9 Even Henderson of UNC, Speno came back with back-to-back wins. He downed Xaviel Ramos of Duke 8-1, then his 7-2 win over Maryland’s Shyheim Brown clinched his NCAA spot for the second straight year. Speno fell again to Henderson in the third place match.

• KaRonne Jones - NCAA Qualifier - 5th place at 197 pounds. Jones, the sixth-seed, dropped his opening match, but came back in the consolation bracket to down UNC’s Frank Abbondanza 4-1. The 197-weight class was awarded five NCAA bids, and after a loss in the consolation semifinals, Jones clinched his first career NCAA bid with a 5-3 win over #15 Nick Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh.

As a team, the Pack placed sixth overall with 33.5 points. Virginia Tech won the team title with 87 points, followed by Pittsburgh (67), Virginia (61.5), North Carolina (38), Maryland (37.5), NC State and Duke (18).

The NCAA will announce its at-large NCAA bids on Wednesday. The NCAA Championships will be held in Oklahoma City March 20-22.

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