This year, Pitt not only returns three of their four All-Americans from the 2019-20 season in Micky Phillippi (133), Jake Wentzel (165), and Nino Bonaccorsi (who has moved up a weight class to the 197-pound division) but also, they bring back two more wrestlers (Cole Mathews and Gregg Harvey) who spent time ranked within their respective classes during the coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season.
With that, the Panthers open the 2021 ranked No. 14 in the first NWCA Coaches Poll released Dec 31. Pitt also boasts an impressive five starters among the top 23 at their individual weights according to FloWrestling’s latest preseason rankings: No. 5 Nino Bonaccorsi (197); No. 7 Micky Phillippi (133); No. 7 Jake Wentzel (165); No. 16 Cole Mathews (141); and No. 23 Gregg Harvey.
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) January 4, 2021
A top-15 ranking should come as no surprise to those familiar with the Pitt program.
Panthers head coach Keith Gavin has seen steady improvement since taking the reigns of his alma mater in 2017. After a (4-11, 2-3 ACC) finish in 2017-18, he has led the Panthers to back-two-back 10-win seasons with above .500 conference records in each of the last two seasons as well.
Last year, Gavin put together arguably his most complete season at the helm thus far. While hosting the conference tournament at the Petersen Events Center, the Panthers crowned three ACC champions — Micky Phillippi (133), Jake Wentzel (165) and Demetrius Thomas (285) — and challenged NC State to the brink for the conference title. Pitt ended in second place with 77 points, just four points behind leader NC State, who finished with 81 total team points.
With such a strong showing at the conference tournament, Pitt qualified seven athletes for the 2020 NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, which were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the cancellation however, Pitt’s trio of 2020 ACC champions and Bonaccorsi (then at 184 pounds) had such strong seasons that they were all named All-Americans by the NWCA following the conclusion of the season.
With a strong 22-14 win at Navy Sunday in the opener, one in which four of Pitt’s five ranked wrestlers earned convincing wins, it would not be a surprise to see these rankings continue rising in the coming weeks.
The Panthers will be back in action Saturday, Jan. 9 for their home opener at the Fitzgerald Field House when they host Lehigh at 5 p.m.