It was an up and down New Year’s tournament for Pitt in Chattanooga, TN. The Southern Scuffle is annually one of the toughest tournaments in college wrestling, along with the Midlands and CKLV. Oklahoma State claimed the team title in this year’s edition, which should surprise no one, as they had five wrestlers place top 3 in their respective weight class. Of import to Pitt fans, previously injured Kaden Gfeller (141) and Joe Smith (174) returned to the mat, which certainly makes the January 18 dual in Stillwater a little more interesting.
As a team, the Panthers finished 4th behind Oklahoma State, North Carolina State, and Stanford. Pitt beat out North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, Rutgers, and Rider of note. In total, 34 schools sent at least one athlete, but many sent only a handful; not enough to rack up any significant team points. Pitt did not have a representative at 197.
Pitt had one 2nd place finish, three come in 3rd, and one 6th.
Gregg Harvey was a surprise finalist as he took out Lorenzo De La Riva of NDSU 8-0 in the quarters, then beat 18th ranked Dean Sherry of Rider 9-3 in the semifinals. De La Riva had an impressive win over Joe Smith in the round of 16, beating him 7-2. Smith is a 2x All American, and although the transitive property never truly applies, if Harvey can beat Smith in the dual it will be a huge win for him, especially in terms of earning an automatic qualifying spot for NCAAs.
Harvey fell to Carter Starocci in the finals 11-6. Starocci is redshirting for Penn State this season and is slated to replace Mark Hall after he graduates this Spring. Based on his performance at the Scuffle, the Erie native may be a title contender next year.
Micky Phillippi and Demetrius Thomas were both the No. 1 seeds and both finished 3rd following parallel paths.
Micky won bouts of 13-0, 4-1, and 4-3 before succumbing to Sammy Alvarez, the true freshman from Rutgers in the semis. Similarly, Meech posted wins of 12-3, 15-2, and 8-3 before falling 5-4 to Dalton Robertson of N. Colorado, also in the semis. Both took care of business in the consolations to get a respectable, but somewhat disappointing 3rd.
Nino Bonaccorsi was Pitt’s other bronze medalist, wrestling to his seed as he slotted in as the No. 3. Nino notched three straight bonus point wins to start. A 12-4 major decision, a 22-7 tech fall, and a 17-4 major.
However, this set up a semi with his arch nemesis, Lou Deprez of Binghamton. Nino has lost to Deprez in high school, freestyle, and now three times in college. This loss was to the tune of a 10-2 major decision. Deprez then impressed by beating Trent Hidlay of NC State in the finals, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the country.
Rounding out Pitt’s placers was Jake Wentzel in 6th at 165. Jake was the No. 4 seed, and started his tournament with two shutout wins. Wentzel then lost in the quarters to 5th seeded Travis Wittlake of OK ST. Wittlake was ranked a few spots behind Jake, and now will certainly jump ahead. This will be another must-win match for Pitt in the dual with the Cowboys.
Jake then won two bouts in the consis before losing to Thomas Bullard of NC ST in the consi-semis, and then to Joe Lee of PSU in the 5th place match.
At 125 Pitt had two entrants. Colton Camacho (redshirting) got off to a fast start winning 12-3 over Joey Thomas of West Virginia, then took out 19th ranked Sidney Flores of Air Force. Camacho was then beating Luke Werner of Lock Haven, the eventual runner-up, but got pinned in the third period. He was then eliminated in the consis, but still showed some potential, giving Pitt fans a reason to be excited.
Louis Newell dropped his first bout of the tournament. He followed that by two wins in the consis, but would advance no further after losing to Fabian Gutierrez of Chattanooga.
Cole Matthews started off winning, losing, winning, winning. This setup a match with All American Tariq Wilson (NC ST) in the consolations. Cole wrestled Wilson – who is tall, hard to score on, and has a proclivity of hitting big moves – as well as anyone. The match went to the second round of tie-breakers, but Wilson’s riding ability was the difference.
Pitt also had two entrants at 149. Dallas Bulsak went 0-2 and Luke Kemerer 1-2. They also each got pinned once. Pitt needs more production from this weight.
At 157, Taleb Rahmani came in as the No. 4 seed, and left without placing. He won his first match then lost to Wyatt Sheets of OK ST. He won his next two in the consis, but was eliminated by Hunter Willits of Oregon State.
Hunter Kernan entered at 165 and went 0-2.
Jared McGill, the top recruit of this true freshman class entered at 174, and initially looked really good. He got out to a lead on Willie Scott of Rutgers, a 5th year senior with a career record of 57-40, but was overmatched in the third period. McGill then forfeited his next match.
Pitt had no entrant at 197; there is no word why Kellan Stout or Cole Nye did not go.
Lastly, Cole Rickert participated at heavyweight. He went 1-2, with his win coming over Trevor Rasmussen of Stanford.
Saturday, January 18th, 7pm, Stillwater OK, a dual with the Cowboys.