INDIAN TRAIL – North Carolina State senior wrestler Michael Macchiavello saved the best seven minutes of his college wrestling career for last.
And Macchiavello did it when it counted most.
Macchiavello, a former high school state wrestling champion in 2013 at Sun Valley, defeated Jared Haught, of Virginia Tech, in stunning fashion to win the NCAA National Championship at 197 in front of 19,000 fans March 17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Macchiavello, who was seeded No. 4 entering the NCAA Championships, had lost to the No. 3 seeded Haught in their two previous meetings this season. After a scoreless first period, each wrestler traded takedowns and the bout was tied 1-1 late in the third. Macchiavello struck the winning takedown with 14 seconds left to claim the 3-1 victory.
Macchiavello said defeating Haught in the finals made his national championship even sweeter.
“Those are the hardest seven minutes I had wrestled,” Macchiavello said. “It was the last match of my career and I had nothing to lose. Regardless of the outcome, when you are put in a position like that you want to give it everything that you have.
“Once I finished up on top (on the takedown) I knew I was going to win the match because there was only like four, five seconds left. I looked up at the clock and thought, ‘Wow, I am actually going to win an NCAA national title.’ I started getting emotional before time even expired. To win the match when it counted was awesome. It is a dream come true.”
Macchiavello advanced to the championship match when he defeated Kent State’s Kyle Conel in the semifinals.
Conel, who was coming off of a pin of No. 1 seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State, scored the bout’s first takedown 19 seconds in. After an escape, Macchiavello scored his own takedown and took a 3-2 lead into the second round. Macchiavello started down and increased his lead to 4-2, and then the senior scored a takedown and turned it into a pin 4:23 into the match. The pin was Macchiavello’s first of the season.
“I was his (Conel) only loss the entire tournament and he finished third,” Macchiavello said. “I was super, super-hyped because I had just made the NCAA finals. That alone is a feat. Qualifying for the national tournament is tough. To make it to the NCAA finals is an accomplishment, and I was able to keep the dream alive.”
Macchiavello advanced to the semifinals with a late win over No. 5 seed Shakur Rasheed of Penn State in the quarterfinals. Macchiavello scored the winning takedown with 12 seconds left.
Rasheed struck first with a takedown and was up 3-1 early in the second after a takedown and escape. Macchiavello evened the bout at 3-3 with a reversal and got the ride time to under a minute. Rasheed started the third down and went up 4-3 with his escape, but Macchiavello scored the winning takedown in the final moments.
Macchiavello opened the tournament with a 13-4 major decision over Thomas Lane of Cal Polytechnic State University before defeating Jeric Kasunic of American University 16-5 in the second round.
Macchiavello’s national title helped N.C. State record its best-ever team finish by placing fourth at the NCAA Championships. The Wolfpack brought home their first-ever team trophy from the NCAA Championships and tied for the best-ever finish by an ACC school in NCAA history. Macchiavello becomes the seventh individual in school history to win a national championship.
“I am just as proud to say that we finished fourth in the NCAA Tournament, if not more proud,” Macchiavello said. “Winning a national title is great for me, but to be able to celebrate our fourth-place finish with the entire team is even more sweet. It took all nine of us to get that team trophy.”
Macchiavello, who didn’t start wrestling until his freshman year at Sun Valley, finished his final season with a 21-3 record that includes All-American status. Macchiavello was below .500 his first two seasons at N.C. State and he then took a red-shirt year.
Macchiavello qualified for the NCAA Championships as a junior while earning All-ACC honors. North Carolina State coach Pat Popolizio said Macchiavello’s work ethic and determination to succeed were keys to his national championship.
“(Macchiavello) wasn’t afraid to committing himself to winning a national title,” Popolizio said. “I’m so happy for him. When you get there and watch a kid execute it, it is very satisfying. It defines our program, people that are going above and beyond.”
Macchiavello was still getting congratulatory texts, notifications, e-mails and phone calls days after his win.
“I don’t think it has still sunk in yet,” Macchiavello said. “I’m still coming to terms with it. It has been surreal. Things really went my way and I am proud to say that I am an NCAA national champ.”