The University of Pittsburgh wrestling program concluded its best NCAA Championships since 1970 on Saturday night at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. However, the historic showing for the ACC squad didn’t have the ending the Pitt team wanted: Two NCAA Champions.
Since January, the goals have been the same for Wentzel and Bonaccorsi during the condensed COVID-19 influenced season: To get their pictures on the wall of national champions in Panthers practice room in Fitzgerald Field House next to their head coach, Keith Gavin, who won the 174-pound crown himself in 2008, the last Pitt wrestler to do so.
With two NCAA finalists for the first time since 1963, both Jake Wentzel and Nino Bonaccorsi came close to those goals, but ultimately fell short, losing their finals matches on the biggest stage.
“That’s what we were planning on doing with this team,” Pitt fourth-year head coach Keith Gavin said. “We wanted to have a big national tournament. You always wish you had won the ones you lost. We’ve got a lot to build on, and we need to do just that. We want to keep building and make sure this isn’t a one-time thing.”
In Pitt’s first NCAA individual wrestling final since 2015, Wentzel fell to Stanford’s Shane Griffith by a 7-2 decision at 165 pounds. On the second try, Bonaccorsi dropped 4-2 decision to Oklahoma State true freshman AJ Ferrari in the NCAA 197-pound final.
In what may be the last match in the history of Stanford’s wrestling program, No. 8 seed Shane Griffith defended many Wentzel underhooks and refused to take the bottom position on the Pitt redshirt senior.
“Jake got to his positions a couple times, but just didn’t convert,” Gavin said. “He got to his double underhooks and got the stall call once, but he needed to convert for a takedown instead because he gave up two takedowns and that’s what killed him there.”
With the score tied 2-2 after two, the Stanford product picked neutral and scored the match’s final five points to claim the crown.
Wentzel, a South Park native, finished the campaign with a 13-2 record, capturing his first true All-America honor and his second consecutive ACC title.
In Bonaccorsi’s match, a one that that featured several blood time breaks by Ferrari and numerous out-of-bounds stoppages, also by Ferrari, without stalling called, Bonaccorsi gave up the first takedown and never recovered. The Cowboy was able to rack up multiple minutes of riding time as a result.
“Blood time, there’s nothing you can do about that,” Gavin said. “You’d like to see the referee make the guy on top keep them on the mat, but it is what it is. I don’t think it affected the outcome.”
A Pitt junior from Bethel Park, Bonaccorsi finished his season with a 13-2 record, his first All-America accolade and his first ACC championship in his inaugural season at 197 pounds. He had spent the previous three years down at 184.
As a team, the Panthers still finished the 2021 NCAA Championships in 11th place with 40.5 points. With that, Pitt recorded its best NCAA finish since 1970 – when it took eighth – and tallied the Panthers’ best points total in the NCAA’s current team scoring format.
Complete Match Results
Micky Phillippi, No. 5 Seed, 133 Pounds, Record: 2-2
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
No. 4 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) maj. dec. No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pitt), 13-5
No. 7 Lucas Byrd (Illinois) dec. No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pitt), 6-2 (TB1)
Cole Matthews, No. 16 Seed, 141 Pounds, Record: 1-2
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
No. 18 Parker Filius (Purdue) dec. No. 16 Cole Matthews (Pitt), 6-3
Jake Wentzel, No. 3 Seed, 165 Pounds, Record: 4-1, Finalist
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
No. 3 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) dec. No. 6 Keegan O’Toole (Missouri), 9-6
No. 3 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) dec. No. 7 Ethan Smith (Ohio State), 4-2
No. 8 Shane Griffith (Stanford) dec. No. 3 Jake Wentzel (Pitt), 7-2
Gregg Harvey, No. 30 Seed, 184 Pounds, Record: 1-2
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: 4-1, Finalist
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
No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) dec. No. 3 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State), 4-1
No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) dec. No. 26 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), 4-1
No. 4 AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State) dec. Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt), 4-2
Day One Recap can be found here.
Day Two Recap can be found here.