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Pitt Wrestling Rocked by No. 4 N.C. State



Pitt's Cole Matthews wrestles N.C. State's Tariq Wilson at Reynolds Coliseum on Jan. 22, 2021. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Pitt’s trip to North Carolina did not go as planned. On the scoreboard, it was a bit of a disaster.

Five Pitt wrestlers saw their undefeated records snapped Friday evening as the No. 12 Panthers fell 27-6 to No. 4 N.C. State on the mat nestled inside Reynolds Coliseum.

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Pittsburgh Wrestling Club

It was Pitt’s first road conference dual of the season, and the matches were against a team that had edged them out by just four points a year ago for the ACC team title. The Panthers (3-1; 1-1 ACC) were simply not up for the challenge against the Wolfpack (4-0; 2-0 ACC) this time.

“In some of those matches that were kind of 50-50 coming down to the wire, (N.C. State) did a better job of finding a way to win,” Keith Gavin, Pitt’s fourth-year head wrestling coach said. “We got to capitalize a little better. We got to get grittier and find ways to win. We got to stay focused in those frustrating situations.”

In total, 13 ranked wrestlers went to the mat in the dual on Friday, but just one of them was victorious for Pitt.

In the 133-pound bout, No. 4 Micky Phillippi bested No. 16 Jarrett Trombley by a 4-2 score. After a scoreless opening period, Phillippi pulled off an escape after Trombley failed on two takedown attempts. The crafty Phillippi notched a takedown of his own near the end of the middle period, and added another escape to top things off in the third.

Phillippi, a two-time ACC champion and NCAA qualifier, improved to 5-0 on the season.

“Micky did exactly what I said; he did a nice job of getting gritty,” Gavin said.

The only other win for Pitt would come in the 149-weight class. After an uneventful first two periods, Luke Kemerer registered an escape and a late takedown in the final period to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory. A redshirt sophomore from Greensburg, Kemerer picked his spots and was patient. He was rewarded with his second win of the season.

“Luke is a good wrestler and I hope this gives him some confidence that he can mix it up and trust his instincts a little bit,” Gavin said.

Perhaps the most anticipated match-up also proved to be the most eventful. In the 141-pound clash, No. 14 Cole Matthews and No. 11 Tariq Wilson met for a rematch from last year’s ACC tournament. On that day at the Petersen Events Center, Wilson narrowly claimed victory, a win that gave the Wolfpack a little more cushion in the team points race.

On Friday, Wilson jumped out to an early lead, getting a takedown with less than 30 seconds to go in the first period, then pulling off a reversal to open the second. Matthews got on the board with an escape to close the second period.

In the third period, things got interesting. Matthews picked up points on an escape and a stalling call for Wilson. Then, moments before the buzzer sounded, Matthews moved from a headlock to slam Wilson for the takedown. And just before the clock went to zeros, Wilson wriggled out for an escape that tied the score at 5-5. In extra periods, Wilson would eventually pull off a reversal for the sudden victory, winning 7-5.

“I thought Cole Matthews wrestled well. He’s just got to find a way to win that one. He’s lost to that guy twice like that,” Gavin said. “He got in, deep, probably three or four times. (Wilson) is very tall, so it’s a totally different stylistic match-up. … Cole was the aggressor, he’s just got to convert. He’s got to get gritty and find a way. It’s a little less about technique.”

The chances of winning the dual really started to slip away for Pitt in the 157-pound battle. Tyler Badgett was no match for No. 2 Hayden Hidlay, who registered three straight near falls in the second period on his way to a 19-2 victory via technical fall that gave N.C. State a pair of bonus points. It was the second bonus point win of the day for the Wolfpack, as No. 5 Jakob Camacho got a major decision 13-5 victory in the 125-pound class over Colton Camacho to open the dual.

Two Pitt wrestlers were upset by opponents who were ranked lower than them or not ranked at all. In the 165-pound bout, No. 7 Jake Wentzel lost 4-3 to No. 17 Thomas Bullard.

Then, in a shocking result, No. 5 Nino Bonaccorsi was defeated 6-1 by unranked N.C. State freshman Isaac Trumble in the 197-pound match. There was lots of action, but little scoring until the end of the second period when Trumble registered a near fall. The only point Bonaccorsi scored was on a locked hand call against Trumble.

Jared McGill (174), No. 16 Gregg Harvey (184) and Jake Slinger (285) also lost in matches that weren’t particularly close. Harvey and Slinger were previously undefeated.

The dual was followed by a series of extra matches that counted toward the wrestlers’ individual records.

Next Friday, the Panthers face another ACC opponent on the road, squaring off against Virginia in Charlottesville.

“I think, overall, the dual was good for us. We kind of needed it. Obviously, (N.C. State) is a very good team. You kind of need – I don’t want to say wake-up call – but you need that test,” Gavin said. “The ACC is tough. You get to fix your mistakes and correct your wrongs next Friday. UVa is a tough team… That’s a great opportunity to bounce back.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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