Dom Forys and Nick Zanetta will be the only two members of the Pitt wrestling team leaving the ACC tournament with an automatic birth to the NCAA Championships. It will be Forys’ fourth trip to the tournament, and Zanetta’s first. Four others however, stand a chance to earn an at-large bid, with three in promising positions*. Taleb Rahmani (24/19), Gregg Harvey (33/31), and Ryan Solomon (17/27) are all top 33 in ranking and RPI respectively. LJ Bentley will most likely not receive a bid, but with injuries or unforeseen circumstances, it is still possible.
Pitt got off to a fast start at the 2018 ACC Championships, looking to send as many wrestlers as possible to Cleveland for the NCAA tournament. At 125 Bentley got the ball rolling with a 13-2 major decision over Thayer Atkins (Duke). With Forys receiving a bye at 133, Zanetta would be the next Panther to take the mat. Stringing together a series of beautiful transition wrestling, Zanetta earned a dominant 17-1 tech fall. Up next, Robert Lee suffered one of Pitt’s three losses in the first round. He fell 4-1 to Virginia’s Sam Krivus. At 174 Tommy O’Brien lost 10-1 to Duke’s Matt Finesilver, and at 197 Kellan Stout dropped a 6-3 decision to Alec Shenk of Duke, whom he beat earlier this year.
Taleb Rahmani, the returning ACC champ at 157 came out looking to defend his title. He handled BC LaPrade of Virginia Tech, the late replacement of WPIAL native Solomon Chishko. Jake Wentzel did not waste much time either in his ACC debut, pinning Josh McClure of North Carolina early in the first period. At 184, Gregg Harvey wrestled a tight match with Drew Peck of UVA until the third period, then started to break open the scoring, leading to a 9-5 win. In the last match of the opening round, Ryan Solomon came out flying. After racking up multiple tilts in the first period and taking the score to 10-0, Peck threw Solomon to his back and pinned him, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Solomon immediately began to protest and the refs conferenced. After a review, it was determined Solomon’s foot touched the wood flooring, a condition to instantly stop the match. The pin was overturned and Solomon held on for the 18-6 major. Pitt finished the first round 6-3 with four bonus point wins. Unfortunately for the Panthers, this success did not last.
Pitt lost all seven semifinal matches. With a chance to clinch an automatic bid to Cleveland, LJ Bentley took the mat against the No. 1 seed Louie Hayes of UVA. Just like in the dual meet, LJ kept it close, but ultimately fell in overtime. Forys on the other hand, could not get any offense going whatsoever, getting shutout by Jack Mueller 6-0. Wrestling one of the top 141 pounders in the country over the last several years, Zanetta was able to wrestle a very smart strategical match against Kevin Jack of NC State. Despite a quality ankle pick attempt late in the third, it was not enough to overcome the 2-0 deficit, and Zanetta would have to rely on getting third place to automatically qualify.
In another unexpectedly close match at 157, Rahmani was able to take the undefeated No. 1 seed to overtime. Hayden Hidlay of NC State dominated Rahmani in the dual, and is considered one of the title contenders for NCAAs. Coming up just short on a go-behind attempt, Rahmani gave up the takedown and fell 6-4.
There was not much excitement in the 184 semi, featuring Gregg Harvey and Latrobe native Zack Zavatsky. The PA state champ took it to Harvey with a 15-3 major decision. This left Ryan Solomon as the only Panther left in the semis. Facing off versus one seed and All American Jacob Kasper of Duke, Solomon looked to return to the ACC finals for the first time since 2015 when he upset Ty Walz. However, while going out of bounds after a Kasper throw, it appeared Solomon hit his head off the wood basketball floor. He went into concussion protocol and was unable to return. Since this was the semifinals, Solomon slid all the way to sixth place, one spot out of an automatic bid. As mentioned earlier however, he should be a lock to qualify.
Moving on to the third place matches, Bentley once again matched up with Atkins. Although much closer than their first match in this tournament, Bentley still controlled the pace earning a 3-0 win. With only two automatic bids at this weight, LJ will have to wait until the field is announced. Forys, already qualified by way of placing top five at 133, put an exclamation mark on his last ACC tournament with a clinical 11-1 decision over three seed Tariq Wilson.
With his first birth to NCAAs on the line, Nick Zanetta came up clutch, pinning Jeremiah Reitz of Duke and emphatically celebrating towards the Pitt crowd. Rahmani did not fare as well. Tied 1-1 with a few seconds left, Taleb came out of position, ceding a takedown to Kennedy Monday and losing out on a chance automatically qualify. Harvey’s match went similarly. He fell 6-1 to Chip Ness of UNC.
Overall Pitt finished dead last with 33.5 points. But obviously with Solomon’s contributions they would have jumped ahead of Virginia with 34, and possibly Duke with 44.5. The top three: Virginia Tech 81, NC State 73, North Carolina 53.5. Realistically it looks like Pitt will send five to Cleveland. The focus now is singular: place top eight.
- Spencer Lee (Franklin Regional) lost a revenge match in the Big Ten semis to Nathan Tomasello
- Gage Curry (North Hills) is 2-1 and still alive at EIWAs
- Luke Pletcher (Latrobe) used a late takedown in the third period and OT takedown to defeat Mitch McKee and make it to the Big Ten finals
- Dom Forys (North Allegheny) placed 3rd at ACCs
- AC Headlee (Waynesburg) went 1-2 at ACCs
- Nick Zanetta (Keystone Oaks) finished 3rd at ACCs
- Sam Krivus (Hempfield) placed 3rd at ACCs
- Mikey Carr (South Fayette) took out returning All American Tommy Thorn and upset Nick Lee to make it to the Big Ten finals
- Tyler Smith (Franklin Regional) is 3-0 and in the semis at EIWAs
- Michael Kemerer (Franklin Regional) suffered his first loss of the season, getting pinned by Micah Jordan
- After winning his first two matches, Jason Nolf (Kittanning) defaulted out of the tournament
- Josh Shields (Franklin Regional) won the Pac 12 tournament
- Vincenzo Joseph (Central Catholic) survived a close match with Logan Massa to return to the Big Ten finals
- TeShan Campbell (Penn Hills) went 0-2 at Big Tens
- Brendan Burnham (Pine Richland) went 1-2 at Big Tens
- Jake Wentzel (South Park) went 1-2 at ACCs
- Zack Zavatsky (Latrobe) finished 2nd at ACCs
- Alex DeCiantis (North Allegheny) and Drew Phipps (Norwin) are both 2-1 and still alive at EIWAs, and will wrestle each other in the consolation quarter finals
- Greg Bulsak (South Park) placed 2nd at EWLs
- Kellan Stout (Mt. Lebanon) went 0-2 at ACCs
- Dustin Conti (Jefferson Morgan) won EWLs
* Each weight class in each conference has a unique number of automatic allocations, based on a plethora of criteria. If one does not earn an automatic bid, he must rely on an “at large” bid to fill in the remaining several spots. This year each weight had between 27-29 automatic spots, meaning they could have between 4 and 6 at large bids, considering each NCAA weight has 33 spots. The allocation of bids, as well as an explanation on determining automatic and at large bids can be found here: https://www.ncaa.com/news/wrestling/article/2018-02-22/ncaa-wrestling-qualifier-allocations-2018-championships-coaches