NCAA Wrestling released the brackets for the 2018 Championships on Tuesday evening. They will take place in Cleveland, OH from March 15th to the 17th. The four Panthers competing are Dom Forys at 133, Nick Zanetta at 141, Taleb Rahmani at 157, and Ryan Solomon at 285. This will be Forys’ and Solomon’s fourth trip to the NCAA tournament, making them the 18th and 19th wrestlers all time in Pitt’s history to accomplish this. Zanetta, a senior, will make his first appearance while Rahmani, a sophomore, will be going to his second straight.
Dom Forys received the No. 11 seed and will face Corey Keener in the first round for the second straight year, albeit this time Keener is competing for Penn State. Keener attended Blue Mountain high school and wrestled the first three seasons of his career at Central Michigan. He is a three-time NCAA qualifier and has a combined record of 2-6 at the Championships. One of those losses came to Forys last year, a 10-2 major decision. Should Dom win, he will face the No. 6 seed in the round of sixteen. That would be Scotty Parker of Lehigh, whom Dom is 2-0 against. It’s a good draw.
Nick Zanetta is unseeded at 141. Each bracket seeds the top 16 wrestlers, and the remaining 17 are randomly drawn in. Nick drew the No. 3 seed, phenom freshman from Cornell, Yianni Diakomihalis. The four-time state champ was 243-3 in high school and is a two-time Cadet world champion. Zanetta and Diakomihalis met at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas invitational earlier this season, with Yianni winning 9-1. Without looking too far ahead, should Nick happen to lose, he may have a very favorable path to the round of 12. However, there is a lot of speculation involved there.
Pitt’s entry at 157 is also unseeded. Taleb Rahmani will have the No. 16 seed Mike D’Angelo from Princeton. D’Angelo is 22-8 on the season and went 1-2 at last year’s NCAA tournament, with his win coming over Canon Mac grad Colt Shorts. Rahmani is probably one of the best unseeded wrestlers in the weight class, and a win over D’Angelo will match him up with 1 seed Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State. Taleb took Hidlay to overtime at ACCs last weekend.
At heavyweight, Ryan Solomon will be making his last trip to the Big Dance. And this time he will have quite the challenge in his first match. A quick look at the brackets reveals Solomon actually has eight more wins than his opponent, but that’s only because he spent part of the season competing in Russia. Kyle Snyder is an Olympic, and two-time World Champion, as well as two-time defending NCAA champion. His only loss this year is to Adam Coon of Michigan, the two seed, who outweighs Snyder by nearly 60 pounds. Ryan will be up for the challenge, but if we bet the odds and Solomon ends up in the consolation bracket, like Zanetta, he may also have a doable path to the blood round*.
Again, it is impossible to look past any one match at this tournament, but with empty brackets staring you in the face, the temptation is too great. All in all, the four Pitt Panthers got decent to great draws. But great draws mean nothing. They call it March Matness for a reason, and it all starts next Thursday.
* The Blood Round is synonymous with the round of 12, meaning there are twelve wrestlers left in the bracket. With the four in the semifinals already having their All American (top eight) honors guaranteed, the eight in the consolation bracket must win this match to get on the podium, or their season, or career is over. As one could imagine, it’s called the “blood” round for a reason.