The good news just keeps rolling in for Pitt Wrestling. On June 7th it was announced Micky Phillippi received a sixth year of eligibility, guaranteeing he’ll be able to compete all four years for the Panthers.
Phillippi initially committed to Virginia and completed his redshirt season there in 2017. After transferring back home, the Derry native was denied eligibility in what would have been his redshirt-freshman season due to intra-conference transfer rules, leaving him with only three years.
Many felt this was unjust as in the same off-season Nick Suriano transferred from Penn State to Rutgers, both Big Ten schools. While the ACC obviously has different rules, Pitt appealed this decision and the NCAA, justly, granted Phillippi a 6th year clock extension waiver. Phillippi, who will likely begin next season ranked in the top 15 at 133 will now have four full seasons to represent the Panthers.
Ryan Sullivan Commits
Then just two days later, one of the top WPIAL recruits announced his commitment to the University of Pittsburgh. A senior at Shaler Area, Ryan Sullivan already has a decorated high school career. As a sophomore he went 39-4 placing 2nd in the WPIAL and at States. As a junior he finished 42-1 with both WPIAL and PIAA titles. He is currently ranked 7th in the country by FloWrestling. Projected to compete at 125, Sullivan is a huge get for Keith Gavin and staff. Building the program with local talent will be one of the keys moving forward.
Transfers and Late Additions
Earlier today, Gavin announced two newcomers to the 2018-2019 roster. Firstly, Brendon Fenton, a highly touted recruit from Ohio committed to Pitt. Fenton posted a dominant career at Elyria High School notching 144 total wins, two State titles, a Super 32 All American, four state medals, and three times a member of Ohio’s national freestyle team.
“I chose Pitt because I’m excited about the young coaching staff helping me reach my wrestling and academic goals,” Fenton said. “I also really like the great group of teammates and I want to be a part of helping this program become a national powerhouse.” Fenton will join his classmates Luke Kemerer, Louis Newell, David Crawford, and Cole Matthews rounding out the 2018 recruiting class.
He will also fill a hole at 125 vacated by LJ Bentley who is moving up to 141 next year. Although he will have to battle it out with Newell, Pitt now has two solid options at the lightest weight class.
Another lineup hole has also been filled. With stalwart Ryan Solomon graduating, 285 seemed like an issue heading into next season. With Cole Rickert as the only heavyweight on the roster, speculation began on whether someone would bump up a la PJ Tasser in 2014. Zach Bruce, who has wrestled as low as 184 recently, competed at 125kg (275 pounds) at the U23 freestyle tournament in Akron earlier this June. As Rickert only posted a 4-7 recored last year, and Bruce assuredly being undersized for the weight class, Demetrius Thomas will be a welcome addition to the program.
Thomas has spent the last two years wrestling in the NAIA division where he placed 1st and 2nd at the National tournament. Not bad. Wrestling for Williams Baptist University, Thomas set a school record with 40 wins last season and was named the American Midwest Conference Wrestler of the Year. Hall of fame sportswriter Jason Bryant noted “[Thomas] has some tools.”
“I saw not only a great place to succeed academically, but also a great program rising on a solid foundation,” Thomas said. According to Gavin, Thomas’ work ethic and athleticism lead the coaching staff to believe he can accomplish big things in Division I.
With this latest news, we now have an idea of what the Pitt lineup could look like next year.