CLEVELAND – After session III of the NCAA Wrestling tournament all four Panthers were eliminated. Nick Zanetta was Pitt’s highest placer at 16th. Dom Forys, Taleb Rahmani, and Ryan Solomon all technically finished tied for 24th in their respective weight classes. This is Pitt’s third year in a row without an All American.
Round of 24
Nick wrestled a very smart match with Luke Karam of Lehigh. A 1-1 tie heading into overtime, neither wrestler was close to scoring. After Karam chose down and escaped in the first rideout, Nick had a decision to make. Throughout his career Nick has struggled getting out from bottom, and when he beat Karam earlier this year, he chose neutral when it was his choice. But this time he went down. “I thought to myself, this could be my last match, if I get ridden out I deserve to lose.”
After rolling out of bounds with :18 seconds left, they restarted in the center. As Karam attempted to throw his right leg in, Nick was able to catch it, hit a partial switch, and secure a reversal with about five seconds left to win. “He faded last time and I knew if I stayed in position and kept crowding him, he’d fade again.” Although there is not a huge Pitt crowd here, Nick’s cousin and mom could certainly be heard giving support to their favorite Panther.
Dom completely out-wrestled John Erneste from Missouri. He dominated from neutral and won every angle. But he got caught in the same move twice. The first time he escaped being pinned by no more than a centimeter. The second time was too tight. Dom finished his career with 89 wins, four trips to the NCAA tournament, and an ACC championship.
He never reached the podium though. After going 0-2 at nationals as a freshman at 125, Dom seemed poised to place all three years at 133. For one reason or another, he was never able to place top eight, a disappointment for sure. But it does serve to remind even the most diehard fans how hard it is to gain that most coveted honor in NCAA wrestling. One need only look at those who haven’t.
Taleb faced returning NCAA finalist Joey Lavallee (MIZZ) for his second round consolation match. Like his match with 1 seed Hidlay, Taleb was able to keep it close but to no avail. His sophomore season will end with a second straight exit in the consolation bracket. Unlike the other three, Taleb still has two years left, and his close results this year with the best in the country lend optimism to his future efforts. After all, his two losses were to the No. 1 and 2 seeds, and both were by two points.
Ryan Solomon faced four time Pennsylvania state champion, Thomas Haines, who now competes for Lock Haven after decommitting from Penn State and transferring from Ohio State. Solomon snatched up a quick takedown, and took Haines straight to his back bringing the score to 4-0. However after giving up four nearfall points, Solomon would be unable to close the gap, with Haines winning 10-6.
Like Dom, Solomon was a four time qualifier who never made All American. An all time great heavyweight for Pitt, Ryan’s clutch dual meet winning performances will be missed. His 73 career wins will be tough to replace.
Round of 16
The last Panther standing, Nick Zanetta took on All American Kevin Jack of NC State. As Jack is want to do, he rode Nick out for the entire second period after a major league ankle pick, as well as the entire third period after Nick went down.
The Zanettas have been a staple in Pitt’s lineup for almost a decade. While it is certainly sad to see such a great era come to an end, Nick wrestled a great tournament, placing higher than his seed, and leading the Panthers to their highest individual finish in 2018.
Spencer lee, Franklin Regional native and Iowa freshman, absolutely destroyed All American Nick Piccininni. He is truly special.
The other Franklin Regional natives, Michael Kemerer and Tyler Smith did not fare as well. Kemerer fell to Kittanning grad and former training partner Jason Nolf. Smith on the other hand, lost to the red-hot Joey McKenna of Ohio State, who has only surrendered four points since the start of the Big Ten tournament.
Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis knocked off Dean Heil, the senior and two time defending NCAA champion. As one could imagine, Heil was devastated, taking an extremely long time to get off the mat. Respectively, Yianni and the ref allowed Mean Dean a minute to gather himself.
Alex Marinelli’s come back win over Chad Walsh gave Iowa its first All American at 165 since 2010, their longest drought at any weight class.
Isaiah Martinez used a 10-1 major decision to knock off four time undefeated PA state champ Chance Marsteller.
Bo Jordan, who has never finished lower than 4th fell to 3 seed Daniel Lewis of Missouri.
At 184, Domenic Abounader and Zach Zavatsky both used overtime wins to make the semis, each capturing their first All American honors after years of coming so close.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament so far came at 197 with unseeded Kyle Conel of Kent State pinning No. 1 Kollin Moore of Ohio State. If Moore fails to place third that difference could cost Ohio State
Nathan Tomasello, Zain Retherford, Isaiah Martinez, and Kyle Snyder all locked up their fourth All American honors. College wrestling won’t be the same without them next year.