While the announcement of the cancellation of the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments on Thursday did not effect Pitt, as both Panthers squads had already been eliminated, Pitt athletics were nonetheless greatly impacted by the decision.
Pitt had seven wrestlers that qualified for the 2020 NCAA wrestling championships, which were scheduled to be played in front of 40,000 fans at Minnesota’s US Bank Stadium.
Instead, their seasons ended late on Thursday, as the ACC first decided to halt all athletic competition by its member institutions and then the NCAA canceled the competitions outright.
Micky Phillippi, Cole Matthews, Taleb Rahmani, Jake Wentzel, Gregg Harvey, Nino Bonaccorsi and Demetrius Thomas had been in preparations for their trip to Minnesota. Now, their seasons, and for Rahmani and Thomas, their NCAA careers, are over.
“This is obviously a very unfortunate situation,” head coach Keith Gavin said in a statement to Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I feel for all the student-athletes, especially the seniors, who have worked so hard for their opportunity to compete at the NCAA Tournament this year. While it is hard to accept the fact that our season is over and there will be no championship tournament, I fully understand that this was not an easy decision and one that was made with the bigger picture in mind.”
While they will go down in the record books as NCAA qualifiers, Phillippi and Thomas would have been favorites to become the school’s first All-Americans since 2015 and with just one upset, Bonaccorsi and Wentzel could have gotten there, as well.
It’s a disappointing end to the season for the Panthers, but with a team that is scheduled to return all but three seniors (Thomas, Rahmani and Kellan Stout), the team trajectory for the Panthers shouldn’t be interrupted by the loss of this year’s championships.