Pitt wrestling is on a tear. After defeating Clarion 39-3 Friday night, and West Virginia 37-3 and Bucknell 34-4 before that, the Panthers have outscored their last three opponents 110-10. Not too bad. Of course, WVU forfeited two matches and Clarion had five starters out, so these results need to be appreciated cautiously. Yet still, as multiple well respected wrestling minds have pointed out recently, these Panthers look aggressive and talented, the best they have in years.
“I think we wrestled aggressively tonight,” said head coach Keith Gavin. “We competed hard and continued to try to score points. This has been a good first semester for us and we have a lot to build off of when we get back from this holiday break.” The Panthers are now 5-0 on the season.
Pitt got things rolling against Clarion with an overtime win from Brendon Fenton. The true freshman made a true freshman mistake in the third period, but kept his poise and quickly ended the match in OT. Gavin has said in the past that one of Fenton’s biggest weaknesses is “wrestling like a true freshman,” so it was nice to see him fix his error and come away victorious. Only experience can fix some things in college wrestling, but a nice confidence boost can catalyze how fast that experience comes, if not how fast it is absorbed.
At 133 Micky Phillippi continued to annihilate his opponents, this time with a 20-5 technical fall. I will not make any official predictions until I see the brackets in March, but I am really starting to believe Micky will be standing on that podium Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
LJ Bentley’s match didn’t last very long. He pinned Andrew Gapas in the first period. A classic senior demolishing a freshman type of match.
Not much can be said differently about Robert Lee’s bout at 149: A senior sticking a sophomore in the first period. Little can be analyzed from such quick affairs, but it is important to earn bonus points when you are heavily favored for seeding purposes, so Bentley and Lee did their job.
Taleb Rahmani had a bit of a back-and-forth match that saw traded reversals in the third period, the only difference being Taleb taking his reversal straight to the back. Those four nearfall points widened the gap, leading to a 9-4 final.
Pitt’s only loss came at 165. Redshirt senior Evan Delong, a PA native, used a takedown with immediate back points in the second, and another takedown in the third for a come-from-behind win over Jake Wentzel. This is a classic example where the victor’s fan base would call it a “good win” and the losers fan base would call it a “bad loss.” In my opinion, and I have absolutely no insider info, it looked like Wentzel was sick or had a really bad weight cut. He was an entirely different wrestler in the third period compared to the first.
Gregg Harvey was impressive at 174, and continues to show a variety of leg attacks he can consistently score with. He also added a riding time point. Gavin has been stressing his wrestlers perform well in all three positions, and has specifically mentioned Harvey and Rahmani as those who need to be more consistent on top. Harvey did just that on Friday.
At 184, Nino Bonaccorsi did what Nino Bonaccorsi has been doing his entire life… takedown, takedown, takedown, takedown. Micky and Nino wrestling so well is really exciting for Pitt fans this year, but what’s even more exciting is they are both freshman. They are the foundation moving forward.
Kellan Stout had a cool opportunity to wrestle at his dad’s alma mater. Bryan Stout was a four time All-American for the Golden Eagles from 1994-97 finishing 8th, 4th, 7th, and 4th.
Kellan did not waste the chance to impress some of his father’s former fans, as he did not surrender a point, winning 5-0.
Heavyweight bouts used to be the most boring almost every dual. That has started to change recently with the likes of Kyle Snyder and Jacob Kasper. Meech Thomas seems to be continuing that trend, putting his athleticism and natural power on display every time he steps on the mat. Not to mention, his technique is improving as well. Gavin was always known as a technical, methodical wrestler, and he may be the perfect coach to tune up a raw prospect like Thomas.
Pitt’s next match is not until January 6th, when they travel to Norman, Oklahoma for a contest with the Sooners. Stay tuned over this long Christmas break for a unique story I’ll be publishing about one of Pitt’s most successful alumni.