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Pitt Advances Four to Day Two of NCAA Championships



Action kicked off for session two with a quick set of consolation pigtails, then moved right into the second round championship matches. Micky Phillippi, Nino Bonaccorsi, and Demetrius Thomas all wrestled on the “top side,” while Taleb Rahmani and Kellan Stout competed in the wrestle-backs.

Micky faced Austin Gomez, an Iowa State freshman who has made the Junior World Team. Not surprising with his freestyle accomplishments, Gomez is a high-risk, high-reward type wrestler. With Phillippi being more traditional, it was hard to predict how this clash would play out.

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“It was a close one, he’s a good competitor. I let him hang in there… I had two opportunities to finish shots that I didn’t.” Micky wasn’t mad about how he wrestled, he just noticed a few things he could sharpen up.

Micky Phillippi in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — March 21, 2019 David Hague/PSN

It was 1-0 going into the third, and Gomez declined to choose bottom. This meant Micky had to defend his one point lead for a full two minutes. With about 1:20 left, he got his first stalling, which meant he really had to be perfect.

“I’m trying to score as many points as I can every time I’m out there. Both matches I was trying to shoot, trying to score. Neither guy picked bottom on me which changes things. This weight class is tough, everyone’s been talking about it. This is a deep weight.”

He’s right about the weight being deep, that’s for sure. But the Derry native and 3x PIAA state champion is also spot on critiquing his own wrestling. Micky was the aggressor, and got in on several high quality chances, but just couldn’t finish. Micky closed out the match fighting a Gomez single leg for about 25 seconds on the edge of the mat, a very difficult task. He credits practicing with Nico Megaludis and Conor Youtsey in preparing him for that situation. For his next situation, well he’s been preparing for that his whole life.

“I just have to go out there an wrestle. We’ve wrestled – I couldn’t even tell you how many times – we’re both tough competitors, may the best man win.”

Yes, that’s right. In Friday’s quarterfinals Micky will face Luke Pletcher (Ohio State/Latrobe). May the best man win indeed.

Nino kept the momentum rolling for Pitt with a huge upset over No. 4 seed Emery Parker. Nino went after him all match, relentlessly pursuing points, as he is want to do. This win also advances Nino to the quarters, where he will face returning All American Max Dean of Cornell.

“I try to block all that stuff out, try to keep a cool head. I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Nino explained when asked about being an underdog (he is the No. 13 seed).

The Bethel Park native can get himself in trouble at times, with that never-ceasing attack. He was up 9-6 late, and still kept shooting. “That was a grueling match.”

As he explained after his first round win, Nino doesn’t look ahead too much, and aside from knowing Dean was an All American last year, is going into tomorrow’s match relatively unmindful of Dean’s tendencies.

Pitt coaches in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — March 21, 2019 David Hague/PSN

Meech came up short in his second round match. He was winning by four over Matt Stencel, but got put to his back, and conceded a third period takedown. Those scores would prove insurmountable, and Meech will drop to the consis for day two. He is slated to face the winner of Jeramy Sweany and Ian Butterbrodt. He has a pin over Sweany earlier this season.

Beginning his fight back through the consis, Taleb came out flying, hitting some of his patented moves, and downed Hunter Willits with a 12-3 major. Taleb came incredibly close to pinning Willits on two occasions, but just couldn’t quite hold him long enough. Moving on to day two, he will have Ke-Shawn Hayes of Ohio State in the second round consolations.

Kellan Stout concluded day one for Pitt, losing a tough 4-2 decision to Anthony McLaughlin from Air Force. A takedown and riding time were the difference. Stout finished 0-2, and is the only Panther to not advance.

Micky and Nino are in the quarters, and just one win from being an All American. Taleb and Meech have their work cut out. Gavin described the day as having “ups and downs,” with some definite areas of improvement that need to be cleaned up as the tournament advances. Pitt is in 27th.


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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