By BRIAN CARSON
“There’s only one life to live and I’d regret not pursuing something I’m still passionate about. My body is healthy and my mind is refreshed. Here’s to going until the wheels fall off for something you love.”
With that tweet, Hayden Hidlay announced his return tocompetitive wrestling.
After his senior season, the five-time All-American and four-time ACC champion at NC State stepped away from the sport to focus on coaching and other interests.
After graduating, Hayden was excited to give back what he learned and continue his involvement in the sport that gave him so much as a student-athlete. But the urge to wrestle never left. The passion was still alive inside.
“A few months ago, I got the itch to start competing again and get back to a training and competing plan I’ve been used to for the last 20 years,” Hidlay said. “I’ve been in the room training, so I knew the turnaround wouldn’t be too challenging. The only thing I hadn’t been doing was competing and having a wrestling-based condition. But I’ve stayed in shape and have been wrestling a lot. I’m really excited about it. I don’t want to regret not trying something down the road when I know I’m young enough and healthy enough to do this.”
Hidlay has worked hard as the Student-Athlete Development Coordinator for the NC State Wrestling team. He will now focus on training for freestyle wrestling with the goal of winning the prestigious U.S. Open in April. His road back to the mat starts in February at the Zagreb Open in Croatia.
“I was trying to find a tournament to get into before the U.S. Open. There are two big tournaments in April, one in Zagreb, Croatia, and the other in Egypt,” Hidlay said. “It looked pretty dicey that I would get into the one in Egypt. The guys at USA Wrestling got back to me and said there was one more spot for Croatia.”
“I wanted to get into it and get back in the mix. The main goal is peaking for the U.S. Open. I’m excited to go to Croatia,” he continued. “I’m probably going to be a little rusty, but I feel like I’m in really good shape, and my wrestling is as good or better than it always has been, and that gives me confidence.”
Hidlay will start his journey at 72kg (159 pounds), down from his college weight as a senior when he wrestled at 174.
“I’ve been mostly at 170, so I don’t have too much of a cut to make,” Hidlay said. “The 72-kilo weight class is good for me to start out with. I’ll base my decision on how that goes. If it’s an easy cut, then we’ll have to figure out what weight I’ll go at the U.S. Open.”
Coaching for the Wolfpack lets Hidlay keep up with his wrestling and his conditioning where it needs to be. He has worked with the middleweights like Jackson Arrington and Ed Scott, two former PIAA state champions. Of course, he’s had spirited workouts with his brother, Trent.
“I never lost my love for the sport. I’ve been in the room just as consistently as the guys on the team. Coaching the guys has been interesting and has helped keep me in shape,” Hidlay said. “Conditioning is not much of a grind in freestyle compared tocollege. You go for six minutes in freestyle, but you could wrestle an 11-minute match in college. I’m in good shape. It’s more about working on technique.”
Hidlay is at peace with himself. He wants to win; that’s obvious. But he’s fine with the results if it doesn’t work out. He’s content knowing he can look back and have no regrets.
“I feel refreshed and I’m grateful for the gifts I have. I don’t know how this will turn out. I could fall flat on my face and not do as well as I have in the past, or I could do better than I have in the past. I’m at peace with whatever happens,” Hidlay said. “I didn’t come back for the result motivation of it all. I came back because I really enjoy it. I see competing as a gift and want to participate in it. I don’t want to be 40 or 50 and look back and feel I sold myself short. I can hang my head on that I tried something; if it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, then that’s okay too.”
Older, more mature, and wiser, Hidlay is enjoying the moment and making the most of his opportunities. Hayden is the living embodiment of the George Bernard Shaw quote: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature. I am not sorry for anything I have done, for I have done it all with the best intentions and the utmost effort. And I have no regrets.”
Hidlay is back and enjoying the ride. Besides wrestling and coaching, he does the #PackMentality Pop-Ins Podcast and he will be the color analyst for the Pack’s ACC Network Extra broadcasts when available.
“The chase of being great is hard to get rid of. I’ve been fortunate to have the gifts that I have, the talent that I have, so I might as well utilize that,” he said. “I still have lofty goals that I want to reach. At the end of the day, I’m a really lucky guy that I get to do this as a profession.”
And we, as spectators and fans, are fortunate to see Hayden Hidlay back on the mat competing once again.
(You can listen to the entire interview on The Press Box this coming Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on the Central PA Sports Facebook page and the Press Box YouTube channel at YouTube.com/@thepressbox)
The latest Pa Power Wrestling state rankings are out, and District 6 comes in with 55 wrestlers ranked in both classes.
Here are all the District 6 wrestlers who are state ranked:
Class 3A (14)
7. Braiden Weaver, Altoona, Fr.
1. Dalton Perry, Central Mountain, Jr.
4. Hayden Cunningham, State College, Sr.
15. Blake Aumiller, Mifflin County, Jr.
1. Pierson Manville, State College, Jr.
3. Luke Simcox, Central Mountain, Jr.
4. Asher Cunningham, State College, So.
7. Griffin Walizer, Central Mountain, Jr.
17. Jacob Cunningham, Mifflin County, Sr.
2. Luke Sipes, Altoona, So.
12. Parker Kearns, Mifflin County, Jr.
17. Carter Weaverling, State College, Sr.
14. Rocco Serafini, Central Mountain, Jr.
2. Nick Pavlechko, State College, Jr.
Class 2A (41)
4. Jacob Sombronski, United, Jr.
14. Mason Beatty, Mount Union, Sr.
15. Caleb Hummel, P-O, Fr.
19. Conner Myers, Penns Valley, Fr.
1. Bo Bassett, Bishop McCort, Fr.
3. Landon Bainey, West Branch, Jr.
16. Jack Darlington, Penns Valley, So.
24. Alex Gladfelter, Huntingdon, Jr.
25. Josef Garshnick, United, Fr.
1. Jax Forrest, Bishop McCort, Fr.
5. Lucas Fye, BEA, Jr.
14. Gideon Bracken, United, So.
25. Isaiah Shilcosky, Forest Hills, Jr.
1. Coen Bainey, BEA, Sr.
5. Jackson Butler, Bishop McCort, Fr.
5. Sam Herring, Bishop McCort, Fr.
12. Casey Smith, Juniata, Sr.
24. Colton Shunk, Penns Valley, Jr.
2. Devon Magro, Bishop McCort, So.
21. Taylor Smith, Juniata, Sr.
5. Trent Hoover, Penn Cambria, Jr.
13. Gage Heilbrun, Marion Center, Sr
19. Lukas Walk, Tyrone, Jr.
23. Owen McMullen, Bishop McCort, Fr.
5. Ty Watson, Penns Valley, Jr.
18. George Campbell, Glendale, Jr.
21. Kaden Barnhart, River Valley, Sr,
22. Marcus Gable, P-O, Jr.
3. Zeke Dubler, Glendale, Sr.
19. Tommy Cohenour, So. Huntingdon, Jr.
23. Andrew Weaver, Tyrone, Jr.
5. Caleb Close, BEA, So.
18. Kyle Scott, Tyrone, Fr,
19. Andrew McMonagle, Huntingdon, Jr.
24. Josh Ryan, Mount Union, So.
7. Karter Quick, Central Cambria, Sr.
23. Britton Spangle, Glendale, Sr.
3. Gunner Singleton, Huntingdon, Sr.
12. Daniel Williams, Glendale, Fr.
13. Braden Ewing, Tyrone, Jr.
20. Ethan Norris, Bellwood-Antis, Sr.
(Bishop McCort wrestlers are ineligible for the postseason)
3A Team Rankings
1. Bethlehem Catholic
5. Council Rock South
15. Central Mountain
3A Top Ranked Wrestlers
107: Keanu Dillard, Bethlehem Catholic, Fr.
114: Nathan Desmond, Bethlehem Catholic, So.
121: Cael Nasdeo, Williamsport, Sr.
127: Vinnie Kilkeary, Greater Latrobe, Sr.
133: Dalton Perry, Central Mountain, Jr.
139: Pierson Manville, State College, Jr.
145: Mac Church, Waynesburg, Sr.
152: Ty Watters, West Allegheny, Sr.
160: Nick Kunstek, Pottsville, Jr.
172: Rocco Welsh, Waynesburg, Sr.
189: Tucker Hogan, Daniel Boone, Jr.
215: Sonny Sasso, Nazareth, Sr.
285: Sean Kinney, Nazareth, Jr.
2A Team Rankings
1. Notre Dame-Green Pond
2. Faith Christian
3. Saucon Valley
4. Chestnut Ridge
5. Bishop McDevitt
14. Penns Valley
2A Top Ranked Wrestlers
107: Aaron Seidel, Northern Lebanon, So.
114: Bo Bassett, Bishop McCort, Fr.
121: Jax Forrest, Bishop McCort, Fr.
127: Coen Bainey, BEA, Jr.
133: Scott Johnson, Muncy, Sr.
139: Jaden Pepe, Wyoming Area, Sr.
145: Vince Bouzakis, Notre Dame-Green Pond, So.
152: Conner Harer, Montgomery, Jr.
160: Grant MacKay, Laurel, Sr.
172: Holden Garcia, Notre Dame-Green Pond, Sr.
189: Rune Lawrence, Frazier, Jr.
215: Austin Johnson, Muncy, So.
285: Riley Robell, Bishop McDevitt, Sr.
In a battle of one–versus–one, Bethlehem Catholic, No. 1 in Class 3A, faced off against the top team in Class 2A, Notre Dame-Green Pond.
When the dust settled, it was the Golden Hawks with a 29-23 victory over the Crusaders. BECA won seven bouts picking up bonus points in three of those. Notre Dame-GP captured six bouts, with two via the bonus.
#1 Bethlehem Catholic 29, #1 Notre Dame-Green Pond 23
127: #15 Ashton Campbell, BC, dec. Gavyn Kelton, 7-6.
133: #3 Cael McIntyre, BC, tech. fall Tanner McQueen, 15-0, 4:00.
139: #2 Kollin Rath, BC, dec. #13 Bryson Vaughn, 6-4.
145: #1 Vince Bouzakis, ND, dec. #16 Charlie Scanlan, 3-2.
152: #3 Jake Dailey, BC, dec. #11 Keegan Ramsay, 5-2.
160: #7 Andrew Harmon, BC, pinned Nate Thomas, 4:47.
172: #1 Holden Garcia, ND, tech. fall Luke Thomas, 26-11, 5:02.
189: #12 Landon Muth, BC, dec. Connor Smalley, 12-6.
215: #10 Jared Blobe, ND, dec. Auggie Warke, 4-2, SV.
285: #4 Aiden Compton, ND, dec. #18 Elijah Thompson, 10-3.
107: #2 Ayden Smith, ND, won by forfeit.
114: #1 Nathan Desmond, BC, pinned Tanner Berkenstock, 2:37.
121: #16 Cooper Feltman, ND, dec. #6 Cole Campbell, 8-6.
Takedowns: Notre Dame-Green Pond 22, Bethlehem Catholic 20.
Records: Bethlehem Catholic (6-0); Notre Dame-Green Pond (4-1).