RALEIGH, N.C. — As his drill partner in practice, Nino Bonaccorsi knows what Kellan Stout is capable of on the wrestling mat. So Bonaccorsi wasn’t worried when his Pitt teammate was trailing by two points with about 30 seconds to go in Saturday’s dual meet against N.C. State.
The redshirt junior and Mt. Lebanon High School graduate rallied in the 197-pound bout. He escaped from the Wolfpack’s Malik McDonald, then took a shot at him for a successful takedown. Stout then hugged McDonald for the final 10 seconds of the battle, refusing to allow his opponent to have a chance to retake the lead. The clock hit double zeros, and the Pitt sideline erupted.
“(Stout) has gotten that shot a couple of times now and he’s really good at it,” Pitt head coach Keith Gavin said. “He was focused, locked in and competing. He did a nice job. Really proud of him for fighting through that one. That was a hard-fought match.”
Said Bonaccorsi: “That was awesome. I love seeing that from Kellan. Glad he could pull it out.”
Stout’s win against McDonald mirrored how Pitt’s Sunday went as a whole for the team. After trailing 16-4 in team points early, the No. 16 Panthers bounced back, won the day’s final four matches and topped No. 8 N.C. State, 18-16 inside James T. Valvano Arena at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in front of an announced crowd of 1,544 fans.
Kellan Stout outlasts #20 Malik McDonald!!!!
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) February 10, 2019
Pitt’s triumph over N.C. State marked its first win against the Wolfpack since 2014 and its first ever victory in Raleigh. It was also N.C. State’s first home loss of the season and spoiled the Wolfpack’s Senior Day celebrations.
The victory for Stout — his 12th of the season — put Pitt (11-3, 1-2 ACC) within striking distance of the N.C. State (14-3, 2-1 ACC) lead heading into the final bout. With the Panthers trailing by just two points, all they needed was a decision win from Demetrius Thomas in the battle of the heavyweights. This meet would be decided by the big boys.
Gavin was more than hopeful heading into the final match, and his confidence was validated when Thomas tossed his opponent around for three periods, taking a 17-5 major decision win. It was the 22nd win of the season for Thomas, the No. 8 285-pound wrestler in the nation, and his 10th by major decision.
“Meech is a special kid,” Gavin said. “He’s pretty athletic, works extremely hard every time he’s out there and we know he’s going to give his best effort. The other guy has to be pretty good to keep up with that.”
— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) February 10, 2019
The meet began for Pitt with a decision loss in the 125-weight class, as Zurich Storm defeated Brendon Fenton, 13-6. But the Panthers came back in the next match, with No. 5 Micky Phillippi taking a 17-5 major decision victory over John Devine.
LJ Bentley lost in overtime in the 141-pound battle, as N.C. State’s Jamel Morris latched onto Bentley’s right leg and took him to the mat for a sudden victory takedown. Pitt’s woes continued as they lost the 149, 157 and 165 weight class battles, falling behind by 12 points.
“That’s happened a couple times this year, where at intermission, us upper weights have to work together and get some points on the board,” Bonaccorsi said. “I knew we could do that because our lineup is that good. We can comeback from those type of deficits.”
Gregg Harvey put Pitt back in the win column, taking a 6-4 decision win over No. 20 Daniel Bullard. The redshirt sophomore from Boyertown fought hard for all three periods and had blood just above his right brow with 21 seconds to go. It didn’t seem to bother him, but the match was briefly halted for a clean-up. He came back in and notched the win.
On paper, Bonaccorsi was supposed to lose his match as he was facing Nick Reenan, a wrestler ranked 10 spots higher than him. But the Wolfpack redshirt sophomore was wearing a sleeve on his right leg. After Bonaccorsi took him to the mat near the end of the first period, Reenan didn’t seem to have much fight left in him.
“I think his (opponent) wasn’t feeling right or something, but you got to control what you can control,” Gavin said. “After Nino got that first takedown, the other guy kind of stopped wrestling back.”
The redshirt freshman from Bethel Park dominated the final two periods and took home an 8-0 major decision win, his 16th win of the season.
“I felt like I was focusing on my ride a little better,” Bonaccorsi said. “I got a takedown toward the end of the first period, so I tried to ride him out. That’s huge in those type of matches. So, it was my ride and staying out of weird situations with him.”
#13 Nino Bonaccorsi majors #3 Nick Reenan!!
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) February 10, 2019
Stout and Thomas rounded out the match with wins for the Panthers.
Gavin’s side is flying back to Pittsburgh on Sunday night after notching three straight wins in the state of North Carolina. The Panthers are trending in the right direction as the regular season winds down.
“A lot of our guys are young or pretty new to the program, because we have a couple of transfers. So, it was just good for everyone to get on the mat more and kind of go through a little adversity with the travel,” Gavin said. “We’re growing as a team and I think you do that on the road.”
Remaining on Pitt’s schedule is a home meet with Duke and a road trip to Virginia before the ACC championships in Blacksburg, Virginia on March 9.
“We feel good. I think we’re at an all-time high right now,” Bonaccorsi said. “We have two more tough ACC matches, but if we keep working off each match, I think we can do some great things postseason.”