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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    NC State's Track Record with Elite Recruits Under Pat Popolizio

    On the day before Thanksgiving, the NC State coaching staff received a verbal commitment from California state champion Daniel Zepeda (Gilroy, CA). Zepeda is currently ranked ninth overall in the Class of 2025 by MatScouts. With Zepeda’s commitment fresh on the minds of wrestling fans, it seemed like an appropriate time to revisit NC State’s history of signing top-tier recruits under Pat Popolizio. 

    During Popolizio’s time in Raleigh (2012 - present), the Wolfpack have been a frequent threat for the top spot in national recruiting rankings. While the 2023 class was ranked 18th, the previous two were noted in the top-five. Early in his tenure (2016), Popolizio and staff signed the top class in the nation. 

    So, how does one receive such an honor for their recruiting class? It depends. For the most part, NC State hasn’t always signed top-ten recruits, but they have banked on the next tier of recruits. They’ve also been able to identify recruits that others have missed and turned them into national contenders (Mike Macchiavello, Kevin Jack, and Tariq Wilson). Another trademark of NC State’s recruiting classes has been large quantities of signees. Some power programs only get a couple of signees per year; however, they ranked very highly (Ohio State, typically). NC State has done a little of both. 

    The title of this article uses the word “elite.” What exactly is an “elite” recruit? It’s hard to say and the number can vary from year to year. One crop of recruits could be much deeper than one of its predecessors. For the intents and purposes of this article, we’ll say that top-30 in your graduating class constitutes “elite.” 

    Should Zepeda maintain (or improve) upon his current standing in the Class of 2025 and sign with the Pack, it would make him the 13th top-30 recruit to sign with the team since Popolizio’s arrival. 

    Below are those 13 wrestlers, separated by their respective recruiting classes. The number next to their name is their overall ranking in the graduating class by MatScouts/InterMat. 

    Class of 2023

    #24 Koy Buesgens (New Prague, Minnesota)


    Class of 2022

    #6 Dylan Fishback (Dublin Coffman, Ohio)

    Because of the existing talent on the Wolfpack roster in the upperweights, Fishback was able to redshirt in 2022-23 and amassed a solid 15-6 record. This year he’s been the guy at 184 lbs and has responded with a 6-0 start to his career. In his last two matches, Fishback has earned wins over returning national qualifiers. 

    To see the full article purchase an InterMat Premium membership for $10 per month or $50 per year. This gives you access to the top coverage of wrestling throughout the season.
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