Pitt Wrestling fell to 0-1 in the ACC after losing to Virginia Tech on Sunday 31-6. Coming off a big upset win over Oklahoma, the Panthers conceded 8 of the 10 matches to the Hokies, including all four bonus point matches, thus the lopsided score. However, Pitt “left some points out on the board” as assistant coach Drew Headlee pointed out, specifically, at 125, 141, and 149.
At 125, LJ Bentley returned from his injury to face Kyle Norstrem. After Bentley appeared to score the opening takedown, first year Head coach Tony Robie challenged the call, stripping the takedown from the Pitt junior. In the third period, LJ escaped with 59.8 seconds of riding time in Norstrem’s favor, preventing the extra point from accumulating by just two-tenths of a second. However in overtime, Norstrem would secure a body lock on Bentley, taking him straight to his back and getting the pin. From almost winning to getting pinned, this 9 point swing in the team score deflated the crowd, and was exactly what Headlee meant regarding missed points.
After Dom Forys defended his No. 11 ranking by taking out No. 13 Dennis Gustafson 4-1, 15th ranked Nick Zanetta squared off against unranked Brent Moore. After choosing down in the third period, Zanetta would be unable to escape leading to the 2-0 shutout. “That’s always been an issue for him,” offered Headlee. At times earlier this season Keith Gavin has called out multiple wrestlers and their struggles escaping from bottom. Although as a whole the team has improved in this regard, it still remains an issue.
In the next match, two-time All American and Canon-Mac grad Solomon Chishko took the mat vs Pitt’s Robert Lee. Despite Chishko being the heavy favorite on paper, Lee wrestled very tough, keeping the match close into the third period. A late takedown for Chishko brought the final score to 3-1 and again, as Headlee mentioned, all three of these losses were “one move matches.”
With Taleb Rahmani out at 157 with an illness, GioVonne Sanders made his Panther debut. The talented wrestler from Jeannette did not wrestle his senior year in high school due to an injury. Although showing some skill and promise, Sanders’ loss would be one of seven in a row. At 165 Jake Wentzel put up a fight vs No. 4 David McFadden despite losing 7-3. Likewise for Gregg Harvey at 184 vs No. 8 Zack Zavatsky, another WPIAL product (Latrobe) competing for the Hokies. But from 141-197, there wasn’t much cooking for the Panthers.
Zach Bruce started at 197 for the first time this season. In hockey terms, starter Kellan Stout was a “healthy scratch,” allowing him to take some time and build up confidence. “He’s been doing well in the practice room… just giving him a little time.” With Virginia Tech’s Jared Haught ranked second in the country, this match made perfect sense to give Stout an opportunity to reset. Ryan Solomon capped the dual by putting on a clinic from the top position, riding out Andrew Dunn and securing the 2-0 win.
“We went in to the last two weeks of practice knowing Virginia Tech is really good and it was going to be a tough dual meet for us.” After upsetting Oklahoma, Pitt knew the dual on Sunday was going to be tough, and the rest of the ACC schedule isn’t going to get any easier. Although a top-10 program, Virginia Tech is not the highest ranked ACC school. That honor belongs to seventh ranked NC State. As Headlee mentioned, “you can’t let the highs get you too high” (regarding the win over Oklahoma). With upcoming matches against North Carolina, No. 7 NC State, and No. 15 South Dakota State, Pitt will look to get back to the drawing board and continue to improve.