Jan. 25—Jackson Arrington is usually cool, calm and collected, but the Forest Hills graduate admits he's got a little extra juice as he prepares for No. 8 North Carolina State's match at No. 19 Pitt on Friday night.
It will be the first time that the 149-pound sophomore has gotten a chance to wrestle close to home in college.
"I'm excited," Arrington said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "It will be really fun. I'm looking forward to it. I know my family is coming — a lot of them are — extended family as well. I think some people from the area are going to come. We have a couple of other guys from Pennsylvania.
"I'm sure we'll have a good crowd there."
There will be plenty of familiarity for Arrington, who was recruited by the Panthers before opting for the Wolfpack. In the dual, which will be shown on the ACC Network, he'll face Pitt's Finn Solomon, a redshirt freshman who was Arrington's teammate and workout partner during the 2022-23 season in Raleigh before the Franklin Regional graduate transferred closer to home.
"We grew up wrestling together," Arrington said. "He was here and now he's not, so obviously we're going to be wrestling Friday. It's not bad.
"I don't think there's anything negative there."
Arrington isn't worried about competing against his former practice partner.
"I don't think it will be weird," Arrington said. "I've wrestled a lot of people that I've wrestled in high school. He's on a different team now. It's just another match. I've just got to go out and wrestle."
After falling one victory short of All-American honors as a true freshman, Arrington is off to a great start this year. He's 12-2 overall — although only one of those losses was on the mat, as he took a medical forfeit loss after getting "banged up" in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
He lost 9-8 to Ohio State's Dylan D'Emilio in that tournament after leading 7-2 in the second period. When they met again three weeks later in a dual meet, Arrington beat D'Emilio 5-2 thanks to a change in strategy.
"In the second match, it was 'Let's wrestle smart. My shots are there, but I'm not going to force anything,' " Arrington said. "I felt like I could have scored another takedown, another two takedowns, but the outcome was better, obviously."
That was Arrington's only victory this season that did not result in bonus points.
He's been taking advantage of the new 3-point takedown rule, which has helped him rack up two major decisions and eight technical falls to go along with a pin.
"I'm a big fan of it," Arrington said of the scoring change. "I think it's huge, especially on our team. We're an offensive team. I think it helps us. It makes it a lot easier to start putting up points and it really rewards the guy being on offense. If you score two or three takedowns, it's hard to get snuck up on in the third period."
Nebraska's Ridge Lovett tops the coaches' rankings at 149, with Virginia Tech's Caleb Henson and Arizona State's Kyle Parco ahead of Arrington. D'Emilio is sixth at the weight.
Arrington isn't too concerned with the rankings, even though the final version will factor into seedings at March's NCAA tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.
"You know how wrestlers see rankings," Arrington said. "We don't care too much.
"Whether they rank me 20th or rank me first, it doesn't change much. Nobody's going to give me an NCAA trophy on the coaches' rankings. At the end of the year, I still have to do what I'm going to do."
If he keeps wrestling the way he has been, there's a very good chance Arrington will end up high on the podium in Kansas City.
"I think I've been wrestling really well," Arrington said. "I've been putting things together mentally, physically. I'm developing as a wrestler, an athlete and a teammate. From last year to this year, I've made huge strides thanks to my teammates and coaches. I'm happy where I am right now, and I'm going to continue to get better as the season goes on."
Eric Knopsnyder covers college wrestling for The Tribune-Democrat.