NC State head coach Pat Popolizio (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Monday afternoon, news broke out of Fargo, North Dakota that newly promoted North Dakota State head wrestling coach, Obe Blanc, had hired Hayden Hidlay as his assistant coach. In 2022, Hidlay finished up a decorated career at NC State that saw him leave Raleigh as one of the all-time greats in NC State wrestling, becoming the first four-time (and five-time) All-American in school history and second in career win-loss percentage.
Hidlay and Blanc's paths crossed at NC State as Blanc was an assistant coach early in Hidlay's career, before leaving for NDSU. The common ground for both was wrestling or coaching under Wolfpack head coach Pat Popolizio.
When it comes to college coaching trees, no one is larger or more famous than Dan Gable's when he was the head coach at the University of Iowa. John Smith's is quite impressive himself as he is now responsible for coaching ten current DI head coaches, which is the most of any coach or school.
What you may not realize is that Popolizio has an impressive list of DI coaches that have either coached alongside him or wrestled under him (or both). With Hidlay's hiring, that number grows by one. Before the 2021-22 season, InterMat traveled to Raleigh and spoke with Popolizio about this exact topic. When asked about the number of his pupils in the coaching ranks he responded, "To me, you never want to have a kid come here and resent the sport of wrestling. We want it to be a positive experience."
Some head coaches may view assistants leaving as more work for them in the short-term and a difficult situation in replacing a valued member of their staff. Popolizio isn't one of them. "I feel confident about the guys on our staff. At some point, they'll get the call to be a head coach and they'll be ready because of the day-to-day tasks that are thrown at them. They're learning the ins and outs of everything I do as a head coach. I already know in our room right now, we have several guys who are going to be great college coaches."
So who's next from the Pat Popolizio coaching tree? "Adam Hall, he's a rock star. His time's coming. He'll get the call to be a head coach." That call may have to wait until after the 2023-24 season based on the fact that no head coaching positions are currently open. Hall is very highly regarded in coaching circles and the general consensus around him getting a job is "when not if" he gets a job.
In addition to Hall, current assistant coach Timmy McCall did not wrestle at NC State, but he has been a constant around the team for almost a decade (2015), first as a member of the Wolfpack Wrestling Club, then rising onto the full-time staff.
Here is our full interview from 2021-22 with Coach Popolizio. The question regarding his coaching tree and the subsequent answer is around the 10:30-13:00 minute mark.
Below is the list of current, then former, DI coaches that have wrestled or coached under Popolizio at one point.
Army West Point
Scott Green (Associate Head Coach) - Binghamton assistant coach
Jeff Breese (Current Army West Point Director of Wrestling Development) - NC State assistant
Nick Gwiazdowski (Assistant Coach) - NC State athlete
Donnie Vinson (Assistant Coach) - Binghamton athlete/NC State assistant coach
Frank Beasley (Head Coach) - NC State Associate Head Coach
Dennis Papadatos (Head Coach) - Binghamton Assistant Coach
Malik McDonald (Assistant Coach) - NC State athlete
Kevin Jack (Volunteer Assistant) - NC State athlete
Jamill Kelly (Assistant Coach) - NC State Assistant Coach
North Dakota State
Obe Blanc (Head Coach) - NC State Assistant Coach
Hayden Hidlay (Assistant Coach) - NC State athlete and Student-Athlete Development Coordinator
Justin Oliver (Volunteer Assistant) - NC State athlete
Former DI Coaches
Army West Point
Joe DeAngelo (Associate Head Coach) - NC State athlete
Sean Fausz (Assistant Coach) - NC State athlete
Beau Donahue (Volunteer Assistant) - NC State athlete
Matt Kaylor (Volunteer Assistant) - Binghamton athlete
Mike Kosoy (Volunteer Assistant) - NC State athlete
Pete Renda (Assistant Coach) - NC State athlete