Classes may be over for the school year at North Carolina State, but Nick Gwiazdowski is continuing his education.
A two-time state high school wrestling champion while attending Duanesburg High School, the 2012 NCAA All-American has spent a good amount of his spring competing against, and training with, some of the top heavyweights in the nation. Saturday, Gwiazdowski will put what he has learned to use as he competes in the 120 kg (264.5 pounds) division in the freestyle World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla.
“I think I’m a realist,” said Gwiazdowski. “I’m not thinking I’m going to win it. There are former champions and former finalists in the group. I’ll gain a lot of exper-ience.”
That’s what this entire spring has been about for Gwiazdowski, who placed eighth at the NCAA Division I Championships as a true freshmen while at Binghamton University, then followed Bearcats’ coach Pat Popolizio when the Niskayuna High graduate accepted the head coaching job at N.C. State.
He placed third at the University World Team Trials and seventh at the U.S. Open, the latter result securing his spot in today’s Challenge Tournament, which will determine who will face top-ranked 2012 Olympian Tervel Dlagnev in a best-of-three Championship Series for a place on the team that will compete in Budapest, Hungary, in September.
Gwiazdowski spent the final weeks leading up to the Trials training at the Ohio Regional Training Center, where Dlagnev is among his workout partners.
“You can’t get a better person to work with, an Olympian,” said Gwiazdowski. “It’s really made me push myself, and shown me what I need to work on.”
Saturday’s competition throws all of the Trials qualifiers into a single-elimination tournament. The winner gets to face Dlagnev, who inherited his position when Dominique Bradley, the top-ranked American freestyler and U.S. Open champion at 120 kg., withdrew from the World Team Trials as he attempts to resolve his April 19 positive drug test at the U.S. Open for the stimulant methylhexaneamine.
Gwiazdowski goes into the event ranked in the top 10 for the first time, sitting ninth in the U.S Senior Freestyle rankings that were released last Wednesday.
The tournament will be Gwiazdowski’s last major event of the season before he returns to Raleigh to prepare for his first season on the Wolfpack starting unit. He redshirted last season after his transfer and is expected to be the team’s starting heavyweight this winter.
“I can’t wait,” said Gwiazdowski, who went 20-1 and won three of the four Open tournaments he entered last season. “It was different. It was tough not being able to wrestle in dual meets, in the ACC Tourn-ament, having to sit in the bleachers when we lost to Duke, knowing I could beat their heavyweight.
“My season basically ended Jan. 1. The big tournament for me was the Southern Scuffle. That’s what I was peaking for.”
Two-time world champion and nine-time national champ Kristie Davis, a Colonie High grad, will compete in Friday’s women’s freestyle tourney. Davis, 34, is a nine-time World medalist and the most decorated female wrestler in U.S. history.
She comes into the tournament ranked third at 72kg (158.5 pounds), a weight class that includes fellow world champion Adeline Gray.