LAS VEGAS — The Pitt wrestling team spent this past weekend competing at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. In one of the best mid-season tournaments, Pitt had mixed results, showed promise, and exposed areas that need to be improved.
Pitt finished 12th out of 45 teams with 56 team points, with two 6th (Nick Zanetta and Ryan Solomon) and two 7th (Taleb Rahmani and Dom Forys) place winners. Within a few team points of Pitt were Minnesota, Wisconsin, American, and Stanford. “Overall it was a really good tournament for us,” assessed assistant coach Drew Headlee. Pitt wrestled without a 125 pounder, which undoubtedly lowered their team score a few points.
Nick Zanetta, a redshirt senior from Keystone Oaks, wrestled extremely well earning three ranked wins, and on top of that, all revenge wins as well. In his first match on Friday Nick took out the No. 4 seed Javier Gasca (Michigan State). Gasca had previously defeated Zanetta at FloNationals in high school, but this was their first college meeting. After winning two more bouts on the championship side, Nick found himself facing the No. 5 seed from Cornell, Yianni Diakomihalis. A *two-time Cadet World Champ, Yianni D is used to the big stage despite being a freshman. After losing, Nick fell to the consolation side where he would face two more familiar foes. First, Russell Rohfling from Cal State Bakersfield who beat Zanetta at the dual match a few weeks ago, then Kanen Storr (Iowa State) who has a win over the Panther from Midlands last season. Nick would down them 10-6 and 4-2, a testament to his development.
“Nick is continually improving. I think he’s building a lot of confidence” offered Headlee. “He was really close to winning these big matches and seems like he’s starting to turn the corner now and really starting to believe in what’s he doing and what Keith has been preaching.” After beating Storr, Zanetta defaulted out of the tournament, but the injury was not serious.
Pitt did not send a 125 pounder as LJ Bentley continues to recover from his offseason injury (he should be back soon). At 133, Dom Forys made his season debut and wrestled well despite taking two losses. Although ranked higher than Josh Terao (American) and Austin DeSanto (Drexel) it would be wrong to classify Forys’ defeats as upsets. Terao is an extremely explosive wrestler and is always dangerous. He is the younger brother of David Terao, an All American. DeSanto, the man who spoiled Spencer Lee’s bid to be an undefeated four-time state champ last year has been having success in his young college career, and really stepped into the spotlight this weekend. After taking out the No. 2 seed Forys, DeSanto fell to the No. 3 seed Jack Mueller from Virginia. However, in the consolation side of the bracket, DeSanto shocked the NCAA wrestling world by absolutely destroying the No. 1 seed Stevan Micic (Michigan) 22-10. While it was painfully obvious to those watching, especially in person, that Micic was not fully emotionally invested, the true freshman poured it on, and will undoubtedly jump very high in the rankings because of it.
“Both of them were highly competitive matches with top guys.” As said earlier, it was Forys’ first competition of the year, and he might have needed to knock a little rust off. Headlee agreed: “Not that he was nervous or anything like that, but he’s going to continue to get better… mat experience, it helps.”
Gregg Harvey also had a good tournament. Headlee was “really impressed with Gregg Harvey’s job; he beat a couple ranked guys this weekend and just continues to get better.” Harvey took out No. 15 in the country Dylan Gabel (N. Colorado) as well as lost a close match to 11th ranked Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin). Additionally, Harvey racked up wins against Edinboro, Iowa State, and Nebraska-Kearney (DII). Ryan Solomon, the senior heavyweight, started the tournament as the No. 4 seed. After winning his first two matches then losing a back-and-forth bout with Shawn Streck from Purdue, Solomon would run off four straight wins in the consolation bracket, outscoring his opponents 37-3. After losing to Nathan Butler, the No. 5 seed from Stanford, Solomon faced Streck again in the 5th-6th place match, this time losing by fall, and thus earning 6th place.
Taleb Rahmani, Pitt’s other 7th place finisher, started the tournament with three straight wins, including beating Andrew Crone, whom Taleb lost to in the Wisconsin dual. This set up a meeting with the No. 1 seed and 4th ranked Tyler Berger from Nebraska. In one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, Taleb would ultimately lose in overtime, but in the process, establish himself as at least an outside shot to All American. The top eight at 157 seems impenetrable, but Taleb almost beat No. 4, and already has a win over No. 5 (Josh Shields).
Overall, “We lost some matches we shouldn’t have,” critiqued Headlee. “But that’s why we’re here… trying to find the best competition early in the season so that later in the season we’ll be able to get those wins.”
*Yianni is one of only two two-time Cadet (ages 15-17) World Champs in US history, the other being Minnesota commit Gable Steveson.