Pitt wrestling lost its first dual match of the season to No. 3 Oklahoma State on Saturday 36-9, dropping their record to 8-1. The Panthers only won two of ten bouts, but lost three in very close fashion. Micky Phillippi and Jake Wentzel earned Pitt’s wins, with Micky beating No. 2 Daton Fix and Jake pinning Andrew Shomers. This was Micky’s third top ten win of the season, after he beat Ethan Lizak and Luke Pletcher in Las Vegas.
College wrestling can be weird sometimes. If A>B and B>C then A>C right? Not always. Nick Suriano beat Micky 11-3, Fix beat Suriano 3-2, Micky beat Fix 3-1. The whole Pitt team watched the Fix-Suriano debacle in the locker room, and I asked Micky if he picked up any of Fix’s tendencies, being freshly familiar with Suriano.
“Not really. I’m not a crazy scout, I just try to go out there and have fun and wrestle the best I can. When I have fun it’s easier. The coaches told me a couple things to be aware of in a couple positions, but outside of that I just tried to get to my positions and score.”
One of the things the coaches certainly educated Micky on is Fix’s upper-body prowess. The Ok St freshman is an expert in freestyle, and one of the best in the world for his age. He was a Cadet bronze medalist in 2015, Junior bronze medalist in 2016, and Junior World champ in 2017. “He’s good from [double unders] so I needed to clear out of there. But it’s a hard position to clear out of because both your arms are up in the air, but I just tried to stay patient and not freak out.” Fix got to that tie a few times early in the match but Micky defended it ably.
Fix was 21-0 entering the dual having yet to surrender an offensive point, and only one week removed from beating Suriano.
In the first period both wrestlers got in a few shots, with Fix coming closest to scoring. Fix also controlled the mat space, keeping his back to the center, and driving Micky around. Things started turning though. Micky got deep on a single leg, but Fix kicked out. After both wrestlers escaped quickly, it was 1-1 in the third, with Micky having one stall call against him. Then this happened:
This third-period takedown on the edge of the mat was the difference for Micky Phillippi. 3-1 winner over No. 2 Daton Fax.
OSU leading, 5-3. pic.twitter.com/5uuSA8jMiY
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) January 19, 2019
It’s OK Alan, we forgive you for the Fax typo.
The Fitz exploded as Micky rode him out for the win. “I’ve never reacted after a win. This place was electrifying. It was hard not to get a little hyped up, but I pulled myself back together real quick and shook his hand.”
WHAT. A. MATCH.
Undefeated no more!
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) January 19, 2019
The response from the Panther faithful was akin to the 2014 match when Mikey Racciato pinned Josh Kindig (or when PJ Tasser took down Austin Marsden in OT to win). It’s just impossible to not bring that up when talking about Ok St.
“He got the job done. Micky’s a super tough kid and I’m really proud of him,” praised head coach Keith Gavin.
Unfortunately Pitt’s response after the big win at 133 was lackluster to say the least. LJ Bentley and Robert Lee got pinned in 1:30 combined match time. Taleb Rahmani lost to an unranked wrestler and got ridden out the entire second period. I thought it looked like Taleb was going for the home run, right after LJ and Rob got pinned to try to catalyze the team. Gavin didn’t think so, and implied Taleb had a bad weight cut.
“That’s how [Taleb] wrestles when he gets tired. He has to do a better job of preparing. When he does feel fatigued he has to stay the course on what’s going to win the match. In the beginning of the year I was happy we were getting away from [the tricks] and relying on solid offense. You saw it in the first period… if his tricks show up, take them. But he can’t rely on that stuff.”
Jake Wentzel stopped the losing trend with a nasty headlock and pinned Shomers in the first, again bringing the entire Fitz crowd to its feet. The Cowboys’ regular starter Chandler Rogers is hurt. He’s ranked tenth and is a returning All American. That would be it for the Panthers in the win column, but the final four put up respectable results, and Nino and Meech each came close to winning.
184 was all Nino early on, wrestling returning All American senior Jacobe Smith (no relation to John or Joe). But after Nino escaped in the third to make it 4-3, he took an ill-advised shot that Smith easily countered and scored on. After escaping, he did the same thing again. Gavin knows Nino has placing potential this year, and wants him to clean up the unforced mistakes. “When Nino’s lost it’s been like that. When he out-wrestles the guy then loses. He has to get rid of that mental lapse he had… he has to finish the job.”
Kellan Stout lost to Dakota Geer 7-2 after taking him down in the first. This was a very winnable match for Kellan, and a result he can reverse if they meet again. It is worth mentioning both of Kellan’s younger brothers won the Allegheny County tournament for Mt. Lebanon on Saturday; Mac (Fr) at 160 and Luke (Jr) at 182.
Even with the dual well out of reach, No. 13 Meech Thomas and No. 2 Derek White put on an exciting heavyweight bout. White won 9-8 with Meech pouring it on late, but his last ditch effort was not enough to overcome getting taken down three times with the same move. “Conditioning was a factor. I don’t think any heavyweight is going to be able to hang with his conditioning level. I’ve never seen a heavyweight work as hard as he does. But he needed to make an adjustment earlier on the slide-by.” The coaching staff warned Meech about that move, but White scored with it three times nonetheless. The positive take away is that Thomas knows he can hang with the very best, and a few minor adjustments may be all that’s in the way of him placing highly.
“There were some closes matches in there where if we make some slight adjustments we come out on top. We’ll go back and watch the film to really narrow down what went wrong.” Pitt will resume action next Friday as it begins ACC action against Virginia Tech, which should be a very evenly fought dual.