This is the first of hopefully many Pitt Wrestling “mail bags”, where you send me questions via Twitter or email, and I answer them. It’s been a busy summer for Keith Gavin’s Panthers so far, and if you haven’t already, catch up on all of PSN’s coverage by clicking here. Let’s jump in!
From James: Who’s going to start at 149 and 285 next year?
Answer: 149 is pretty straight forward as far as I can tell. It will be the winner of Luke Kemerer and Mick Burnett. I’d expect both to get starting time but Burnett to eventually be the starter. At 285 it looks like Jake Slinger will be back in the lineup. Austin Cooley will be out for a significant amount of time with an injury and Colby Whitehill transferred.
From Dan: What was the decision behind Colby Whitehill transferring?
Answer: He wanted to be at a smaller school, especially one where he would be the guy at heavyweight. Pitt has Slinger, Cooley when he recovers, and Dayton Pitzer incoming.
From Carlo: Is this going to be the best recruiting class they’ve had in years?
Answer: For clarification, this question is referring to the 2022 class that includes Briar Priest, Jared Keslar, Mac Stout, and Pitzer. Yes. It will be the best since 2013 when Pitt landed Nick Zanetta, Edgar Bright, Mikey Racciato, Cody Wiercioch, and Ryan Solomon.
From Ed: What needs to happen to take the program to the next level?
Answer: Four things. 1) Increased success at NCAAs. Think 5-6 All Americans plus a champ. 2) Win the ACC team title. 3) Get a recruit with significant national exposure, like a Junior World Team member who everyone expected to go to PSU/OkSt/Iowa. 4) Money. Finish the new facilities on campus and increase the RTC budget to attract new high profile senior level athletes. I don’t know what order those will occur in, but I think all need to happen at some point to really catalyze the program. I’d bet an NCAA Champ will be the first domino to fall. Nino Bonaccorsi anyone?
From PH: How long do you think the current coaching staff sticks together? What is the biggest factor for success next season?
Answer: I won’t guess when the coaching staff will break up, but I will guess why. Jordan Leen gets a head coaching job offer. For next season, two main themes need to happen. 1) Continued development of the younger guys in the lineup. Colton Camacho, Mick Burnett, Jared McGill, and Slinger all need to be better and more consistent. 2) The veteran team leaders need to be just that. Micky Phillippi, Cole Matthews, Jake Wentzel, Gregg Harvey, and Nino will all be back and should all be considered favorites to place or at least win several matches at NCAAs. Grad transfers Gage Curry and Elijah Cleary will provide stability at 125 and 157. If I had to pick one thing to happen, it would be surprising upside development from Burnett and McGill.
From Chris: Other than the usual suspects, who is a sleeper to be a difference maker in the lineup next season?
Answer: In line with the previous question, I’m obviously looking for Burnett and McGill to make strides this off-season. If I was a betting man, I’d go with Burnett.
From John: Is the 2022 recruiting class wrapped up? Which recruits for 2023 do we lead for or are in a good spot to bring in? What’s the 184 outlook after Harvey graduates, who takes his place? What other transfer portal wrestlers, who did not commit to Pitt, did Pitt almost land?
Answer: 1) Yes. Emphatically. 2) As coach Gavin mentioned at the meet n’ greet last week, Pitt will need to start targeting lightweights moving forward, especially with Gary Steen’s departure. Mac Church from Waynesburg may be an option, but it’s difficult to tell how much kids will grow from their sophomore year in high school till college. 3) Luca Augustine will redshirt this year, then take over at 174 with McGill bumping up to 184. 4) I don’t know but I doubt anyone significant. They needed depth at the lightweights and a plug at 157, and they addressed both needs.
From Mike: Who is the next WPIAL recruit that Pitt is likely to get?
Answer: As I mentioned, Church is a possibility. His classmate at Waynesburg Rocco Welsh will also be targeted, but “every school in the country is after him,” as I was informed. I don’t have any inside scoops in this regard, but how about this situation: Pitt needs lightweights, Luke Pletcher is a resident athlete, and Latrobe’s Vinny Kilkeary is a rising junior. Makes sense.
From Joe: Is Pitt set to dominate the WPIAL in recruiting? Does the RTC add a coach?
Answer: Hard to say. They dominated the 2022 crop, that’s for sure. They need some momentum though. Getting a few of the top 2023 guys would make me much more inclined to answer your question “yes”. Regarding the RTC, I doubt it. Unless a major donor steps up, the way Mike Novogratz supports the NYAC, I don’t foresee it any time soon.
From Dad: Can Pitt consistently become a top 5 team at NCAAs?
Answer: Yes. NC State, Edinboro, Arizona State, and Virginia Tech have all done it recently. It’s no secret Penn State, Oklahoma State, and Iowa will always be at or near the top. Ohio State, Michigan, Cornell, and Missouri have been rotating in as well, and often rounding out the 6-10 spots. This isn’t financial advice, but I wouldn’t mortgage my house betting that Pitt will overtake Iowa any time soon. But if NC State and Va Tech (fellow ACC schools) and Edinboro (a PSAC school) can do it, absolutely Pitt can.
Thanks for all the questions! If there are any news updates over the Summer we will do this again. If not, let’s plan for a pre-season session in October, especially with Nino going to U23 World’s around the same time.