Feb. 18, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Saturday will mark the end of an era in NC State wrestling. Senior Darrion Caldwell -- a two-time All-American, the 2009 NCAA champion at 149 pounds, and easily one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference -- will wrestle his final home match at Reynolds Coliseum against Maryland. The match is set to begin at 5 p.m.

Caldwell and senior heavyweight Bobby Isola will be honored in a prematch senior day ceremony prior to Saturday's match, and then the Wolfpack will wreslte a strong Maryland team that has rolled to a 13-4 overall record, 2-1 in the ACC.

"Darrion has been so special for four years here that it's going to be an emotional day," Wolfpack head coach Carter Jordan said. "He and Bobby Isola both have meant so much to our program. Even though Bobby's career has been sidetracked by injuries and illness, he's been such a class act and such a tremendous teammate. I know it's been disappointing for him, but through it all he's remained such a quality kid. He's been such a pleasure for me as a coach.

"And what else can be said about Darrion Caldwell? He's had a sensational career, a historic career, and hopefully he's got a little more history to write."

Isola's career got off to a promising start when he won 14 matches in 2007-08, which was tied for second most ever by an NC State freshman heavyweight. He won five matches against ACC opponents, and won eight of 11 matches in one stretch in late January and early February. Isola has battled through a succession of debilitating illnesses and injuries since then.


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Caldwell got his career off to a spectacular start in 2006-07, winning his first-ever college match by pin in a school-record-fastest time of 13 seconds. He went on to win 20 matches at 141 pounds that season and set an NC State freshman record with 10 pins on the season. He missed making All-America that year by one match at the NCAA Championships.He moved up to 149 pounds as a sophomore in 2007-08 and won 36 matches with 23 pins, both of which are school records for a sophomore. His 36 victories ranked fifth in NC State history regardless of academic year, He made All-America by finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships.

Two years ago, Caldwell turned in a season for the ages, posting a 38-1 record and winning the national championship at 149 pounds, arguably the toughest weight class in college wrestling in 2009. His only loss was by injury default. He tied for the second most wins ever in a season by a Wolfpack wrestler, and had a 29-match winning streak that dated back to the final bout of the 2007-08 campaign. That was the fourth longest winning streak in NC State history.

He won 17 matches by pin, the fourth best single-season mark in school history, and went 10-1 vs. ranked opponents, including a perfect 7-0 with two pins against opponents ranked in the national top 10. He won his last three matches of the season, in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships, by nine points, 11 points and five points, all against opponents ranked in the top 10. He was an easy choice for the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at the NCAA Championships.

Heading into the match against the Terrapins, Caldwell has a 105-12 career record and is NC State's all-time leader in winning percentage at .8974. He ranks second in school history in career victories (105) and career pins (58). He is 21-7 with six pins against ranked opponents, and is 16-4 against opponents ranked in the national top 10. He has won his last eight matches against top 10 opponents, and 14 of his last 16. Caldwell has wrestled 51 matches since the last time he actually lost to an opponent on the mat.

As emotional as the senior day ceremony may be, the main event will still pit the Wolfpack (9-9, 1-3 in the ACC) against a Maryland team that is coming off a 19-17 upset of 11th-ranked American. The Terps have won seven of their last eight matches. Third-ranked 165-pounder Josh Asper highlights the Terrapin lineup, but John Kohler (18-6 and No. 17 at 141 pounds), Kyle John (25-8 and No. 14 at 157 pounds), and Mike Leets (23-6 and No. 19 at 174), all are ranked in the most recent intermatwrestle.com poll. Also having strong seasons are 133-pounder Lou Ruland (16-9), 184-pounder Corey Peltier (17-8), 197-pounder Christian Boley (16-11) and heavyweight Spencer Myers (21-10).

"They have a strong team and they've had a good season," Jordan said. "This is an improtant match. Seedings for the conference tournament sould be on the line in a number of weights."

Juniors Darrius Little at 141 pounds, Colton Palmer at 157 and Quinton Godley at 174 all have been strong for the Wolfpack this season. Little (25-8) has won 14 of his last 17 matches, including a 5-3 victory over 19th-ranked Germaine Lindsey of Ohio on Jan. 22. At 26-10 overall, Palmer has won 11 of his last 13 matches, including a 13-6 victory over 16th-ranked Vince Salminen of North Dakota State on Jan. 8.

Godley (19-15) snapped a six-match losing streak Feb. 15 by pinning Kenneth Radford of The Citadel. The losing streak came against rigorous competition, including a match against 15th-ranked Mike Benefiel of Oklahoma State, and a pair of matches in the 184-pound class.

"We have a nucleus of guys who are right on track for the postseason," Jordan said. "We'd like to get a few more guys ready for that, but time is short now. It's time for everyone to step it up and compete."

Following are the probable starting lineups for Saturday's match between NC State and Maryland:

Maryland (13-4/2-1)
125- Shane Gentry (13-12) or Pat Strizki (4-6)
133- Lou Ruland (16-9)
141- #17 Jon Kohler (18-6)
149- Ben Dorsay (23-15) or Dex Lederer (4-3)
157- #14 Kyle John (25-8)
165- #3 Josh Asper (26-2)
174- #19 Mike Leets (23-6)
184- Corey Peltier (17-8) or Bradley Nielson (10-9)
197- Christian Boley (16-11) or Dallas Brown (6-8)
Hwt- Spencer Myers (21-10)

NC State (9-9/1-3)
125 - Pedram Rahmatabadi (12-13)
133 - Dale Shull (7-7)
141 - Darrius Little (25-8)
149 - #1 Darrion Caldwell (11-0)
157 - Colton Palmer (26-10)
165 - Nijel Jones (3-7/7-17)
174 - Colin Genthert (0-0/5-15)
184 - Quinton Godley (1-2/19-15)
197 - KaRonne Jones (10-21)
Hwt - Eloheim Palma (12-10)