Despite Injury, Wilson Enjoys Returning Home
COLUMBUS — It’s not the way Tariq Wilson had it scripted out.
The Steubenville High School graduate and N.C. State 133-pound redshirt sophomore was returning to his home state for the first time since he stunned the nation in finishing third at the 2018 NCAA Division I national Tournament in Cleveland.
He had more than 25 family and friends in attendance last Sunday night inside historic St. John Arena as the ninth-ranked Wolfpack met No. 2 Ohio State in dual-meet action that was televised live on ESPN2.
Paired against Ohio State junior Luke Pletcher, whom Wilson scored a 17-8 major decision over in the consolation finals of the national tournament after losing 7-3 in an earlier dual meet in Raleigh, the match was moved to the final bout of the night as the ‘marquee’ matchup.
When the two talented grapplers finally took to the mat, the Buckeyes had already clinched the dual, but the excitement was building for the Wilson-Pletcher pairing.
A four-time OVAC Tournament champion, Wilson secured a takedown in the first period before giving up an escape. Pletcher chose the down position to start the second period and quickly got away to draw even at 2-2.
Then it happened.
With 1-minute, 25-seconds remaining in the second period, Wilson clutched his right foot in severe pain as the referee stopped the match. After several minutes of trying to put pressure on the injured area, Wilson declared that he couldn’t continue, thus having to injury default to Pletcher.
“I tried to stand up and I just couldn’t,” Wilson said of the injury while on crutches. “So, I knew right then that I wasn’t going to risk any further injury. In my head I knew I wanted to continue, but the right thing to do was call it.”
He said further diagnosis was to occur when the team returned to Raleigh.
“We’ll get it checked out and go from there,” Wilson said. “(Sunday) was just another match. The big one is in March, so I can take the loss here and bounce back.”
Despite the outcome, the well-spoken Wilson was receptive to the support he received.
“I’m glad that everyone came out … friends, family and my high school team. I’m just glad they got to see me. I’m grateful for this match and being back in Ohio.
“Even though I came out with a loss, I’m still going to enjoy the moment.”
According to reports out of Raleigh, x-rays showed no broken bones on the top of Wilson’s right foot, but an MRI was scheduled.
“Definitely disappointing to leave that last match out there like that and finish the way he did,” N.C. State coach Pat Popolizio said. “That’s not going to define who he is and what he’s about. He’s helped elevate our program to where we are today and he’s a big reason why things keep moving in the right direction.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a student of the game and works extremely hard to get better every day. He’s super disciplined. He does phenomenal in school and those are the type of people you want associated with your school and your program, but he knows he needs to elevate his game because everybody knows what he’s about and how he wrestles.
“He’s a hard style to understand. That’s what makes him great. He can score from all positions. He’s in great shape. He’s a great athlete. Overall, he’s what you want when you’re out there (recruiting) for this level (NCAA Division I).
“We recruit the country and every now and then we’ll see someone that fits our style. We want to make them a part of our program. That’s what we saw out of Tariq and even more so his personality, his mentality and the type of person he is. On top of that, he’s a gifted athlete and he does everything right to put himself in position to be one of the best guys in the country.
“His work ethic has helped him to get to this level. He’s studied and gotten better, but his athleticism and how good he is defensively are keys. His length definitely plays a role in his style of wrestling. Then, when he gets on top, he’s real dangerous. He’s good in all positions and he is a savvy wrestler. That’s what makes him special.”