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Pitt Wrestling: What to Watch for vs. North Carolina Friday Night

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The Panthers (3-2, 1-2 ACC), currently ranked No. 15 according to the latest NWCA Coaches Poll, will return to Fitzgerald Field House to battle conference foe No. 14 North Carolina (2-2, 1-2 ACC) Friday night in Pittsburgh, with a 6 p.m. start on ACC Network Extra.

Pitt and UNC are both coming off losses to conference opponents after the Panthers fell in a heartbreaker at then-unranked Virginia on Jan. 29. The Tar Heels dropped a match against No. 8 Virginia Tech last weekend, on Jan 30.

This top-15 dual will feature numerous ranked wrestlers on both sides, including some of the country’s most outstanding competitors. UNC’s Austin O’Connor owns the No. 1 ranking nationally at 149 pounds, while Pitt’s Micky Phillippi is ranked No. 4 at 133 pounds and boasts an 18-match winning streak. No. 7 Nino Bonaccorsi, will also suit up for the Blue and Gold. He was named the ACC Wrestler of the Week after his win over Virginia’s No. 2-ranked (FloWrestling) Jay Aiello last Friday.

In total, Pitt has four wrestlers ranked by InterMat this week while the Tar Heels feature five. Possible ranked matchups for Friday night include Phillippi against No. 11 Jaime Hernandez at 133, Pitt’s No. 17 Cole Matthews against No. 11 Zach Sherman at 141 and Pitt’s No. 11 Jake Wentzel versus No. 9 Kennedy Monday at 165. The 165-pound bout will be the featured matchup of the night.

At the conclusion of the dual, extra individual matches between Pitt and North Carolina athletes will be held.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Watch for Pitt to look sleek and stealthy wear their new singlet. Pitt will be unveiling a Steel City inspired all black singlet with gold trim and a Panther head in gray across the chest.

2. Expect Senior Day festivities prior to the match. Pitt wrestling will honor several graduating Panthers – Cole Aaron, Dallas Bulsak, Jake Cherry, Anthony Colello, Will Kaldes and Tommy O’Brien – prior to the season’s final home match, while other seniors plan to return and utilize the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic.

3. The 165-pound bout will renew the rivalry between Wentzel and Monday. The duo met twice last season. Monday won the first meeting via an 8-5 score, while Wentzel reversed that result with a 3-2 victory at the ACC tournament. This year, the Pittsburgh wrestler has started his season with a 5-1 record. His only defeat came against No. 15 Thomas Bullard (NC State). Monday, who also has just one loss on the year (Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis) , beat Bullard 4-2 earlier this season.

4. Matthews and Gregg Harvey will both look to acquire bounce-back victories after both were upset last week in their respective match at the UVa meet. A much faster offensive pace and a high attack rate will be key in trying to earn the wins. Both were stymied offensively last week. At 133, Phillippi should come out on top against Hernandez. The last time they met was the finals of the 2020 ACC Championships where Phillippi edged Hernandez by way of a 8-5 decision.

5. Listen for a familiar voice on the broadcast. Alongside Kevin Wheeler, Anthony Zanetta, a former four-time NCAA qualifier for the Panthers (2009-14) wil be calling the action.

Looking ahead, Pitt will finish out the regular season on Feb. 14 when the Panthers travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-0, 3-0 ACC). Wrestling will begin a 6 p.m. The dual and extra individual matches will air on ACC Network Extra via the WatchESPN app.

 

 

 

 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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