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Pitt Wrestling Trio Makes NCAA Quarterfinals in St. Louis

Pitt Wrestling Trio Makes NCAA Quarterfinals in St. Louis

The University of Pittsburgh wrestling team advanced three competitors to Friday’s quarterfinals at the 2021 NCAA Championships  at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Throughout the day, multiple Panthers won and did so decisively thanks to numerous bonus-point decisions.

Micky Phillippi (133 pounds), Jake Wentzel (165 pounds) and Nino Bonaccorsi (197 pounds) used bonus-point victories to end their respective days a perfect 2-0 on Thursday. All three will have quarterfinal contests on Friday morning, now just on win away from All-American honors. .

Cole Matthews (141 pounds) and Gregg Harvey (184 pounds) also earned major-decision wins for the Panthers on Thursday, scoring important bonus points for the team race. Matthews went 1-1 on the day while Harvey finished the day at 1-2, bringing his 2021 campaign to a close. Mathews will begin day two on the consolation side of the bracket.

“We attacked today in the right frame of mind,” Pitt head coach Keith Gavin said. “Obviously, things only get tougher as this tournament progresses, but I was really pleased with how we wrestled overall with scoring a lot of points. Even the guys that lost were aggressive and had close matches with high seeds. We’re excited about tomorrow. We like where we’re at right now.”

Phillippi got the event started for the Panthers with a 14-3 major decision over Utah Valley’s Ty Smith before securing his second career quarterfinal berth by defeating NC State’s Jarrett Trombley. Phillippi’s win over Wolfpack foe, Trombley, is his second of the season. The Pitt 133-pounder also beat Trombley 4-2 when the ACC affiliates met during the dual meet season.

“I thought I wrestled well,” Phillippi said. “I’m taking it one match at a time and having fun with it. We do this every day, so I’m trying to be at my best when it counts the most. I’m excited for tomorrow to try to keep it rolling. I feel like I still have room to improvement from my performance today, so I want to sharpen my tools to try to be even better.”

Pitt’s No. 5 seed at 133 pounds will meet No. 4 Austin DeSanto from Iowa in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“I’m looking forward to meeting Austin,” Phillippi said. “It’s always exciting to face really high-level competition and let it fly and see who the better man is on the day. I don’t know him personally, but I respect him a lot and know he’s a great wrestler.”

Wentzel narrowly survived his first match by defeating Drexel’s Evan Barczak by the slimmest of margins,1-0, to advance to the second round. Barczak was in deep on what would have been the winning takedown, but was unable to secure it prior to the clock hitting triple zeros, according to official review.

In his second match, Wentzel proved why he was the No. 3 seed, earning a  more decisive win over Nebraska’s Peyton Robb, 8-1. Wentzel converted an early takedown and followed that up with his usual dominance from the top position. He ended the match with more than two minutes of riding time.

“It was just a style matchup thing with the guy from Drexel, who had a pretty good gameplan that almost worked,” Gavin said regarding Wentzel’s gutsy opening-round win. “But I wasn’t worried about Jake. I knew that the next guy would try to wrestle him more and not try to game it as much. Obviously, that first match was really stressful for him, but it did feel like once he got past it that he loosened up a bit.”

Of note, Wentzel has now surrendered just a single point in his last 35:00 of mat time – a penalty versus Robb. The reigning two-time ACC champ, Wentzel, will meet Missouri freshman Keegan O’Toole, the No. 6 seed, in Friday’s 165-pound quarters.

Bonaccorsi was dominant during his first trip to NCAAs at a new weight, earning two major decisions in as many matches on Thursday: Stanford’s Nick Stemmet and ACC rival Jay Aiello from Virginia.

After scoring 28 points total in his first two matches, Bonaccorsi will face No. 3 Kordell Norfleet of Arizona State on Friday in a compelling quarterfinal match at 197 pounds.

“Scoring points is just his [Nino’s] thing,” Gavin said. “When there are points on the board, he usually wins. He’s been doing a nice job of converting his attacks and really doing a good job on top, getting back points as well. It’s fun to watch when he blows the match open like he did tonight.”

Pitt’s other two wrestlers at the NCAA Championships also secured wins despite falling to the consolation bracket early in the tournament.

Matthews majored Rider’s McKenzie Bell in his opening match and he gave Iowa No. 1-seed Jaydin Eierman all he could handle  before falling, 5-3. The Pitt 141-pound sophomore will meet on the mat with Purdue’s Parker Filius on Friday with the hopes of beginning an All-America run in the wrestlebacks.

Despite being eliminated from the tournament, Harvey was able to  pick up his first NCAA win with a major decision over Sacred Heart’s Joe Accousti. Additionally, Pitt’s 184-pounder threatened an upset of No. 3 seed Lou Deprez of Binghamton in his opening match but came up short.  Illinois’ Zach Braunagel  gave Harvey his second loss of the day, sending him home.

On the day, Pitt recorded five major decisions, scoring 12.5 team points during the first day of the NCAA Championships, good enough for the Panthers to sit in a tie for 12th place overall.

Day One Results

Micky Phillippi, No. 5 Seed, 133 Pounds, Record: 2-0, Quarterfinalist

No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) maj. dec. No. 28 Ty Smith (Utah Valley), 14-3

No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) dec. No. 12 Jarrett Trombley (NC State), 6-1

Cole Matthews, No. 16 Seed, 141 Pounds, Record: 1-1, Consolation Bracket

No. 16 Cole Matthews (Pitt) maj. dec. No. 17 McKenzie Bell (Rider), 17-3

No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) dec. No. 16 Cole Matthews (Pitt), 5-3

Jake Wentzel, No. 3 Seed, 165 Pounds, Record: 2-0, Quarterfinalist

No. 3 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) dec. No. 30 Evan Barczak (Drexel), 1-0

No. 3 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) dec. No. 14 Peyton Robb (Nebraska), 8-1

Gregg Harvey, No. 30 Seed, 184 Pounds, Record: 1-2, Eliminated

No. 3 Lou Deprez (Binghamton) dec. No. 30 Gregg Harvey (Pitt), 6-4

No. 30 Gregg Harvey (Pitt) maj. dec. No. 33 Joe Accousti (Sacred Heart), 8-0

No. 19 Zach Braunagel (Illinois) dec. No. 30 Gregg Harvey (Pitt), 5-2

Nino Bonaccorsi, No. 6 Seed, 197 Pounds, Record: 2-0, Quarterfinalist

No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) maj. dec. No. 27 Nick Stemmet (Stanford), 15-2

No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) maj. dec. No. 11 Jay Aiello (Virginia), 13-3

Looking Ahead

The 2021 NCAA Championships will be feature coverage of every mat on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app, with general coverage of Friday’s quarterfinals session to air on ESPNU at 11 a.m. ET. Consolation matches will be shown on ESPNU at 3 p.m. before the semifinals air on ESPN at 8 p.m.

Brackets

An updated bracket can be found here.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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