Saturday, the Panthers (2-0, 0-0 ACC), currently ranked No. 12 according to the latest NWCA Coaches Poll, will battle Duke (0-0, 0-0) at the Fitzgerald Field House for the second consecutive fan-less Pitt home meet of 2021.
The Panthers are coming of a 24-9 thrashing of then No. 17 Lehigh while Saturday’s meet will be the first action of the season for the Blue Devils.
The last time these two teams met, it was quite the lopsided affair. Pitt went down to Durham, NC and beat Duke by a score of 50-0 last year in February.
While I don’t expect the 2021 iteration of this conference showdown to be decided by as wide of a margin as the last meeting, I do expect Pitt to get the W and improve to 1-0 in conference play.
With respect to ranked wrestlers, the Blue and Gold have the upper hand.
Two-time ACC champ and 133-pounder Micky Phillippi saw his FloWrestling ranking move up one spot to No.5 this week. InterMat has the Derry, Pa. native back at No. 4 for the second straight week. Trackwrestling has Phillippi holding strong at No. 6, also the same spot from last week. The Open Mat also has Phillippi rounding out its top-5.
141-pounder Cole Matthews, saw his marks in all four of the rating services remain unchanged from the previous iterations. InterMat has the redshirt sophomore at No. 14 while Flo and The Open Mat place him No. 16, and Trackwrestling ranks Matthews 17th.
Panthers’ captain Jake Wentzel saw a jump in all four outlets after a not surrendering a point in his last match, a 3-0 decision against Thayne Lawrence of Lehigh. Wentzel is No. 6 at 165 according to Flo, No. 7 in InterMat and The Open Mat, and ranked eighth by Trackwrestling.
While Gregg Harvey’s Trackwrestling ranking (No. 16 at 184), InterMat ranking (No. 18 at 184), and The Open Mat ranking (No. 19 at 184) held constant this week, the redshirt senior out of Boyertown, Pa. jumped up two spots to No. 20 in Flo’s latest release.
This week’s Office Depot/Supra Student-Athlete of the Week honoree, Nino Bonaccorsi, is the fifth-best 197-pounder according to Flo and InterMat. He checks in at No. 8 in the Trackwrestling standings and No. 9 in The Open Mat.
While redshirt freshman Jared McGill was not ranked inside the top-20 by Flo, InterMat, or The Open Mat, he has soared up eight sports to No. 19 at 174 pounds, according to Trackwrestling.
For Duke, only two wrestlers – the Finesilver brothers had any preseason rankings via Trackwrestling.
Matt Finesilver is coming off an Olympic redshirt season in 2019-20. Prior to that, Matt was Duke’s starter at 174 pounds and was an NCAA qualifier in 2018-19. He finished ranked second on the team in wins and dual scoring that season with a 25-9 overall record and 37 dual points. He conducted that year as the ACC runner-up at 174 pounds and was named an All-ACC academic team member and NWCA Scholar All-America. Unfortunately, Matt will miss the 2021 season while recovering from knee surgery performed in early December.
Josh Finesilver also redshirted in 2019-20 after being Duke’s starter at 141 pounds the year previous. As an NCAA qualifier that season, he compiled a 22-13 overall record and went 15-9 in tournament action with a 7-4 in dual match mark. He earned ACC victories against Scott Kiyono of Virginia, LJ Bentley of Pittsburgh and A.C. Headlee from North Carolina. Josh also defeated Headlee in the third-place match at the ACC Championships to earn a spot on the podium. At the end of the year, he was named an All-ACC academic team member and NWCA Scholar All-America
The Blue Devils as a team ranked tied for No. 36 in the outlet’s team tournament rankings as well.
Here are seventhings to watch for during Saturday’s dual:
- Look for Pitt to get its largest margin of victory on the season this weekend. While the Panthers have to combat some inexperience in the earlier bouts, Duke simply does not match up with respect to ranked. wrestlers Look for Pitt to use this to its advantage.
- Watch for the back half of the Pitt lineup to get the match back on track after tough matches for the Pitt against the Finesilver duo.
- As the match is not projected to be a close one, don’t be surprised to see some new faces in the starting lineup this weekend for Pitt.
- Pitt needs to make sure it stays focused on the task (or should I say meet? at hand). After the Duke dual, Pitt will travel to Raleigh for a showdown with reigning ACC champ and current No. 4. Pitt needs to follow its mantra and take the season one dual at a time.
- Duke’s roster is chalk-full of underclassmen. Expect the additional exhibition matches that follow the dual to be valuable for both Pitt and Duke.
- We should see a few bonus-point victories for the Panthers. Seeing the first Pitt pin in a non-exhibition match may not be out of the question either.
- Redshirt freshman Jared McGill is in for his most challenging contest of the year so far. Should he pull of the upset, look for his place in the rankings to soar.
Saturday’s dual will be followed by a series of extra matches which will count towards a wrestler’s season record.
The match can be seen on ACC Network Extra. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m. Next up for the Panthers is wrestling at No. 4 NC State Fri. Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.