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Virginia Tech Decks Pitt in ACC Opener



Pitt wrestling lost its first ACC dual match to the Hokies 27-6. On the surface the score looks like a blow out. Pitt only got takedowns in two matches, 157 and 285. However, like so often in college wrestling duals, the actual competition was not as lopsided as the score appears. There were no bonus point wins for either team, save the forfeit Virginia Tech received at 141 with LJ Bentley out with an illness. Kellan Stout lost 3-1 to No. 7 Tom Sleigh on a late takedown and Nino Bonaccorsi lost 2-0 to No. 8 Zack Zavatsky despite owning a high differential in shot attempts. The key take-away for Pitt is the high number of matches they could avenge in the ACC tournament.

“It was a frustrating day for us,” said head coach Keith Gavin. “We started out one guy down and didn’t pick up the slack in the other weights. We lost some close matches where we just didn’t bite down and make it happen.”

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Like last week versus Oklahoma State, 133 was the biggest story from this dual. Fresh off his signature win over No. 2 Daton Fix, Micky Phillippi lost to No. 14 Korbin Myers. There were two dicey takedown calls in this match that went to review. Neither were called originally, but the second was overturned, giving Myers the deciding points. In the third period, Micky attempted to win by riding him out, one of his best weapons. After a mat return, the ref called locked hands against Micky, giving Myers a penalty point. Pitt challenged the call to no avail.

The refs were patently, unquestionably wrong on this. When returning from a standing position, the top wrestler is afforded the quick, but fair luxury of “reaction time.” It was clear as day on the replay Micky disengaged his grip well within the normal allotment. This completely changed the dynamics of the match and was yet another example of uninformed officiating. Speaking of, those are starting to pile up, with coaches becoming more and more public with their discontent. Will be interesting to see what the NCAA does about it.

I postured on Twitter that Dallas Bulsak should have been ready to go at 141, assuming of course LJ’s sickness was known prior to the team leaving. Dallas himself corrected me that he is a 149 pounder. The roster still has him at 141, but knowing this, there was no way Pitt could have avoided the forfeit. Pulling Cole Matthews’ redshirt for one dual match would have been ill-advised and short sighted, and it didn’t matter for the team score anyway.

As mentioned, Brendon Fenton, Micky Phillippi, Robert Lee, Jake Wentzel, Gregg Harvey, Nino Bonaccorsi, and Kellan Stout did not record a takedown. This is very uncharacteristic of Pitt’s aggressive style thus far this year, and a betting man would be comfortable gambling this will not happen again.

Taleb was down 4-3 to a very good B.C. LaPrade with less than one minute in the third period. A takedown followed by two late nearfall points gave Taleb the 7-3 win. He looked much better than the previous few times he’s wrestled, and demonstrated good focus and will power to secure the late win.

Nino lost to Zavatsky 6-2 at the CKLV in December. A riding time point and an escape were all that separated them this time around. Nino was by far the aggressor, yet “ZZ” was only called for stalling once. The fellow WPIAL native will not be easily defeated, but again, this strikes as a result Pitt could flip come tourney time.

Latrobe grad Zack Zavatsky rides Bethel Park grad Nino Bonaccorsi in the 184 match. Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics

Demetrius Thomas continues to impress. There are few heavyweights in the country that can counter his natural athleticism, explosiveness, and conditioning. According to Gavin, Meech is the hardest working heavyweight he has ever seen. Hard work plus talent is a recipe for success, especially on the biggest stage.

Pitt will not win the ACC dual championship this year. Well, unless North Carolina State beats Va Tech and Pitt beats NC State. Then there will be a three way tie, and that’s not even counting North Carolina who is very solid. Friday’s result was not a step back for the Panthers, just a bump in the road. Things won’t get any easier though, with UNC coming to town next Saturday.

On another note, Pittsburgh Regional Training Center resident Athlete Samat Nadyrbek Uulu competed at the Dave Schultz Memorial Open, a tournament he won last year. He made it to the finals again, but got teched 10-0 by four-time All American and NCAA champion Cody Brewer. The Schultz is a really tough tournament, and silver is an impressive result.


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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