Pitt wrestling continued its ill-fated season Friday night losing to the 25th ranked North Dakota State Bison 28-11. The Panthers fell to 1-6 on the season. “Some of them don’t wrestle with any heart,” Head coach Keith Gavin grimly assessed.
Every member of Pitt’s lineup is talented and accomplished, however it appears certain individuals are not competing as intensely as their coach desires. “We have some individuals who are doing well and wrestling hard and doing some of the right things… we need ten of them to do that.” Unfortunately, of the four who wrestle that way, three are graduating seniors and the other is LJ Bentley, who after spending months recovering from an off-season injury, had to forfeit his match to NDSU after suffering a right arm injury in the first period. There was no update available regarding his return.
Taleb Rahmani and Jake Wentzel are two others that compete hard, but a lapse in focus on Friday cost the team both directly and indirectly. Rahmani wrestled a great match versus No. 14 Clay Ream, hitting a few new techniques and really slick takedowns, but gave up a cheap score in the last seconds to lose when overtime was within reach. Wentzel was pulled from the match right before weigh-ins with a skin issue that Gavin called a “preventable thing that was very frustrating to deal with.”
Gavin also noted Rahmani has been working on these new setups over the last few weeks in practice, and being able to hit them on a good guy is “a big positive… the negative though is he got outworked in the third period.” Wrestling is a sport where the little things can add up quickly. Giving up points at the end of periods is one of those things. Taking care of your body is another.
Although Gavin did not mention anyone specifically who needs to wrestle with more “heart,” a simple eye-test would implicate Robert Lee, Austin Bell, and Kellan Stout. Lee was a three-time state champ in high school; Bell a Powerade and Ironman champ; Stout a Powerade and state champ. As mentioned earlier the talent and pedigree is there. One of the leaders on the team in this regard is senior Dom Forys. “That’s not talent, that’s just a will.” Along with Ryan Solomon who was held out of the dual with the score being out of reach, those two are role models in terms of giving full effort and competing with desire. Lee, Bell, and Stout just need to figure it out. I believe they will.
Pitt will face 18th ranked Oklahoma on Sunday, Keith Gavin’s previous employer. The Sooners are coached by Lou Rosselli who is famed for his intensity and the high standards he holds his athletes to. If Pitt wants to improve on their performance vs NDSU, they will have to refocus and get their mentality straight.
- “We talk about the will and the fight and having heart, and those two guys display that… everyday they come into the room with that and it’s been encouraging to know that those guys are going to be in our lineup next year… we’re going to build this program around guys like Micky and Nino.”
- After their strong performances at Midlands, Gavin had nothing but encouraging words and praises for Micky Phillippi and Nino Bonaccorsi. Not only was he happy with their 4th place finishes, but drew specific attention to their work ethic.
- “We felt pretty good about those guys when they signed; that just reaffirmed it… really love the way Luke Kemerer specifically wrestled, super aggressive… we can’t wait to get those guys out here.”
- Likewise with the four recruits who all made the prestigious Powerade finals last week. Louis Newell, Luke Kemerer, Cole Matthews, and Jack Davis all had great tournaments, and Matthews and Davis even faced each other in the finals.
Other notes from around the wrestling world
The WPIAL had a good weekend at the Division I level (as per usual).
- Michael Kemerer was named Big Ten wrestler of the week
- Spencer Lee made his Iowa debut after having his redshirt pulled. It lasted 46 seconds.
- Mikey Carr took out No. 8 Chad Red
North Carolina State wrestled Oklahoma State in Italy on Friday.
- At 125 No. 8 Sean Fausz (NC State) beat No. 4 Nick Piccininni
- At 141 No. 4 Kevin Jack beat No. 2 Dean Heil
- Heil is the two-time returning NCAA champion at that weight class but has lost two matches in a row
- The ACC just got that much tougher