It was a pretty good night for the home team. Pitt took seven of ten matches against the No. 17 Virginia Cavaliers. The Panthers won every match they were favored in, as well as both swing matches – 141 and 157 – and Kellan Stout was dead even with No. 6 Jay Aiello. The final team score was 23-10.
“I thought they did well. We won some close ones in there. 141 was a good one to get; I really liked the way Cole wrestled. We thought 157 would be another close one and the first five minutes Taleb did a good job.” Head coach Keith Gavin was generally positive in his assessment of his team’s performance.
The coaching staff was also intent on Stout getting that top 10 win, but not displeased with the close loss.
“That one I really wanted to get. We thought Kellan could win that match and the fight was there. He hustled hard on top and hustled on bottom. He was in a position to win the match and lost that scramble situation. So that one stung a bit… but we can make those small adjustments by ACCs.” That’s the third time this year, along with his match with No. 2 Noah Adams and No. 8 Dakota Geer that Kellan has been close, or really close, to beating a top 10 guy. It might just be one or two minor changes.
Micky Phillippi, Jake Wentzel, Gregg Harvey, Nino Bonaccorsi, and Demetrius Thomas were the other victors for the Panthers. As mentioned, Matthews and Rahmani won close bouts against evenly ranked opponents, with No. 24 Matthews edging out unranked but solid Brian Courtney 4-3, and No. 28 Rahmani beating No. 27 Justin McCoy 7-5.
After not escaping last week when he chose down in his match with Tariq Wilson, Gavin put Matthews down again in the third period with the match on the line. After being ridden for about half the period, Cole came around for a reversal, and rode Courtney out for the remainder of the bout. That was a nice progression from Cole.
Two weight classes higher, Taleb got back in the win column. “We talked to Taleb about who he is, and what he’s doing… he’s a very dangerous wrestler. He has to believe he’s the most dangerous wrestler and just go out and compete. There’s some things that can’t be changed right now, he only has a month left. You don’t have to be the strongest guy out there. You have to believe in what you’re good at, and that’s what we talked about.”
Taleb finished in the top 12 at NCAAs last year, but after dropping a few inexplicable losses this season, and with a 12-7 record after Friday night’s dual, Taleb finds himself on the cusp of being a qualifier. Like Gavin mentioned regarding Stout, there are some “small adjustments” that need to made before the conference tournament. Taleb has proven he can do it in the past, and we will see if he has what it takes for one more run.
Things at 125 went pretty much as expected from an objective viewpoint. The returning NCAA finalist Jack Mueller teched Louis Newell without much fanfare, although Louis did an admirable job not getting pinned in the first period.
Micky had yet another instance Friday night of giving up the first takedown, a strange phenomenon this season. It has not hurt him yet, he’s now 20-1, but that is something he definitely needs to tighten up as we head into March.
Pitt continues to lack production at 149. Dallas Bulsak got the nod on Friday and dropped a 1-0 decision to Denton Spencer of UVA. Dallas chose neutral in the second, and Denton top in the third. Clearly it was well known Spencer is good on top, and he rode Dallas for the full two minutes to win 1-0 with riding time.
As Gavin said, Taleb wrestled well for the first two periods, and despite “taking the third period off,” was able to hit his patented (or is it a Russian?) move in the first. Here are two looks at it from previous competitions:
Here is Abdulrashid Sadulaev hitting a similar version on Kyle Snyder in the 2018 97kg World Championships:
Taleb confessed after the dual he learned it from his Russian club coach in high school, so maybe they do have naming rights.
Jake Wentzel posted a fairly dominant win at 165 over 3x PIAA state champ and Penn Trafford native Cam Coy. In what was the only WPIAL-WPIAL match of the night (which are fairly common across D1), Wentzel won 9-2.
At 174 and 184, No. 24 Gregg Harvey and No. 9 Nino Bonaccorsi posted solid victories over unranked opponents. Harvey won 8-3 over Vic Marcelli, and Nino majored Michael Battista 19-7.
Aiello beat Stout 3-1, but at that point Pitt was leading 19-10 with the dual secured.
Ninth ranked Meech Thomas faced No. 24 Quinn Miller to end the evening. It looked like it was going to be a close bout initially after Miller got the first takedown, but Thomas quickly separated himself, and cruised to a 13-4 major decision.
Pitt will face Davidson on Sunday in what should be a shutout win. After that, Pitt will continue ACC action next Friday in Chapel Hill, NC as they take on the Tar Heels. North Carolina gave North Carolina State a run for their money on Friday, so it should be close.
Gavin on the ACC: “We are in a tough conference, so anytime you get a win in the conference is good. I think there were a lot of really good matches out there and that’s what you’re seeing in the ACC. These duals are getting tightly contested because everyone in the conference is doing a good job. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for our guys to be challenged, and they responded well tonight.”