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Official: All Five of Pitt’s NCAA Qualifiers to Return in 2022

Official: All Five of Pitt’s NCAA Qualifiers to Return in 2022

It’s official Panther fans, all five of Pitt’s 2021 NCAA qualifiers will be returning to Fitzgerald Field House in a Pitt singlet during the 2021-22 season, including NCAA finalist Jake Wentzel (165) and two-time NCAA qualifier(184), both of whom were redshirt seniors this season.

Both Wentzel and Harvey were eligible for another year of competition after the NCAA’s decision to make the 2020-21 season not count against a student-athlete’s eligibility clock due to the pandemic.

The decision by the pair of Pitt NCAA qualifiers certainly pleased their by head coach Keith Gavin, who just led the Panthers to their best NCAA team finish (11th, 40.5 points) since 1970.

“We’re really excited that Jake and Gregg plan to return to our program for another season,” Gavin said in Pitt’s official release. “Since the NCAA announced the option for an extra year of eligibility, we knew that there was a good possibility that these two would be interested in coming back. It means a lot that they trust us as coaches, believe in what we are doing and want to represent this school and the city of Pittsburgh for one more year. Bringing back an NCAA finalist and a two-time NCAA qualifier for an extra year gives our team a huge boost as we look to continue building the Pitt program into a national contender.”

Wentzel, who competed in the NCAA title match at 165 pounds on Saturday night in St. Louis, said the decision to return to Pitt and make another run at the national championship was an easy one for him.

“I’m a local kid who loves wrestling,” Wentzel said in Pitt’s release. “Growing up near this city, all I ever wanted to be was a Pittsburgh Panther. Why would I do anything else than compete for Coach Gavin and his staff for one more year? I have complete trust and faith in them. I’m going to stay here as long as they’ll let me.”

Wentzel, a South Park, Pennsylvania native, already earned his bachelor’s degree and is studying in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business.

Wentzel finished his 2021 season with a 13-2 record and earned his first NCAA All-America honor. Despite losing an entertaining final match to Stanford’s Shane Griffith, Wentzel certainly established himself as one of the nation’s best wrestlers at 165 pounds this season – and built a reputation as one of the best riders in college wrestling. He was the No. 3 seed entering NCAAs and was ranked No. 2 at 165 pounds in FloWrestling’s final ranking poll of the season, released earlier this week.

Harvey, who is also pursuing a graduate degree in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business, made his first appearance at the NCAA Championships last weekend and scored valuable team points at 184 pounds. While Harvey was also a qualifier in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took that experience away from him.

“I definitely have unfinished business,” Harvey said via the Pitt release. “Once I heard about the NCAA allowing wrestlers to have another year of eligibility, there was no doubt in my mind. With the chance to finish my graduate degree at Pitt, along with the belief I have in this coaching staff and this team, I knew that I wanted to stay here in Pittsburgh.”

For Wentzel, a two-time ACC champion, and Harvey, a two-time NCAA qualifier, the focus now turns towards the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will be held in Detroit, March 17-19, at Little Caesars Arena.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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