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Matthews and Bonaccorsi Reach Quarterfinals for Pitt at NCAA Wrestling Championships

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TULSA, Okla.— Pitt saw two of its best wrestlers in redshirt seniors Cole Matthews and Nino Bonaccorsi reach the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center Thursday night.

Matthews (21-1) won a close 1-0 decision against No. 14 Northern Iowa’s Cael Happel (17-7) on an escape in the third period in the Round of 16 . He faced many attacks from Happel, but fended them off and held on for the slim victory at 141 pounds.

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“I think his plan was to get me tired and take me down,” Matthews said on his match with Happel. “I thought he was going to try and get me tired, beat me up in the hand fight, but I stayed pretty confident, pretty loose in the handfight. I think I did just enough to get the victory.

Matthews also found it perplexing that Happel didn’t start in the down position to try and get an escape in the second period. He said that Happel doing that made it easier for him, because he just needed to get an escape in the third period, which he did, and just to play defense for most of the match to earn the victory.

No. 1 Bonaccorsi (18-0) stayed with what he knew best, as he made four takedowns in an 8-2 decision over No. 16 North Dakota State’s Owen Pentz (18-8) in the Round of 16.

Bonaccorsi spoke post match on how he’s keeping it simple, sticking to what he knows best and not making any match bigger than it is. With this his fifth time at NCAA Championships, Bonaccorsi said his experience has prepared him to deal with opponents and the pressure in a good way.

“In these tournaments, it’s easy for guys to get caught up in the outside, the fans, the atmosphere, the pressure,” Bonaccorsi said. “I think that’s what you see a lot in these early rounds. “I think why I’ve been able to wrestle as well as I’ve been wrestling is just forgetting all the outside. It’s just another match. We do this every single day in matches, duels, practice. So it’s nothing new out there. Just wrestling like it’s any other match.”

No. 9 redshirt senior Micky Phillippi (14-4) suffered a tough loss in the Round of 16 at 133 pounds. No. 8 Minnesota’s Aaron Nagao (20-4) caught him off guard on an attack and pinned him at 2:50 in the first period.

That loss prevents Phillippi from ever winning a National Title in his long collegiate career. He will move on to the Consolations to try and earn a high placement in his final two days wrestling for Pitt.

No. 20 redshirt senior Holden Heller (15-7) also lost his match in the Round of 16 at 165 pounds. Holden Heller started out with a takedown, but No. 29 Michigan State’s Caleb Fish (28-9) made a takedown and got back points en route to winning a 7-2 decision.

No. 16 redshirt junior Reece Heller (19-9) bounced back from a tough loss on a pin in the Round of 32 to Lehigh’s Tate Samuelson (22-8) with a win in the Consolation Rounds. He got revenge on No. 33 WVU redshirt junior Anthony Carman (18-15) at 184 pounds, with an 11-4 decision.

Carman defeated Heller in a 7-2 decision at Fitzgerald Field House on Jan. 8. Heller also pinned Carman in Semifinals of the Midlands Championships, en route to his title at 184 pounds in late December

No. 28 redshirt first-year Luca Augustine (15-11) lost another close match in the Consolation Rounds at 174 pounds. No. 21 Colorado’s Lennox Wolak (20-1) won a 3-1 decision, with a crucial takedown to seal the victory.

The loss for Augustine makes him the first Pitt wrestler to fall out of the NCAA Championships. Head coach Keith Gavin spoke on Augustine, praising him for staying in all of his matches, but also emphasizing his need to develop a more clinical attack in the offseason.

“He needs that go-to attack,” Panthers head coach Keith Gavin said on Augustine post match. “It’s not going to be off of a scramble. He’s got a good underhook. He’s got a good front headlock. He was getting the last guy’s leg a couple times, but he needs to work on that finish a little bit. His area of where he needs to focus in the summer is pretty clear.”

Pitt will wrestle again Friday morning at 12 p.m. EST in the Quarterfinals and Consolations. Stay tuned for coverage from Pittsburgh Sports Now of Pitt wrestling for the NCAA Championships the next two days.

Here is the Pitt schedule for Friday morning.

Quarterfinals
141-No. 3 Cole Matthews vs. No. 6 PSU Beau Bartlett
197-No. 1 Nino Bonaccorsi vs. No. 8 NEB Silas Allred
Consolation
133-No. 9 Micky Phillippi vs. No. 23 Iowa Brody Teske
184-No. 16 Reece Heller vs. No. 18 Rutgers Brian Soldano
165-No. 20 Holden Heller vs. No. 14 WVU Payton Hall
Pitt is currently No. 25 in Team Scores at the NCAA Championships, tied with Maryland at No. 25 with 7.5 points.

Pitt Sends Four Wrestlers into the Round of 16 at the NCAA Wrestling Championships

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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