No. 1 Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi Makes it to National Title Match at NCAA Wrestling Championships
TULSA, Okla. — No. 1 Pitt redshirt senior Nino Bonaccorsi made it to the National Title match at 197 Pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships Friday night at the BOK Center.
Bonaccorsi (20-0) faced off against No. 4 Rider’s Ethan Laird (28-2) in the Semifinals. Laird made a takedown early to potentially signal an upset, but Bonaccorsi stayed cool, calm and composed the rest of the match. He made two escapes, three takedowns, earned on point on a stall call on Laird and won a 10-4 decision after riding time.
This is the second time Bonaccorsi has made it to the National Title match. He made it to the final in 2021 as the No. 6 seed, but lost to No. 4 A.J. Ferrari of Oklahoma State.
Bonaccorsi then lost in 2022 prior to placing, which shifted his mindset over this past season. Instead of only focusing on getting the win, Bonaccorsi assumed the risk of losing and chose to work on aspects of himself mentally and physically to improve his wrestling.
The result of this shift in mindset is Bonaccorsi not having a single loss on the season and in position to win a National Title.
“I’ve matured by just not letting my achievements and these expectations of myself [get in the way], Bonaccorsi said. “I have high goals of myself and it’s easy for it to get in the way of my wrestling and my progress. I feel like last year, I was wrestling to win and go back to what I was. I think that hindered me and it tightened me up. As all these big moments happened throughout the season, all these big matches, I just took it as, win-or-lose, I’m just going to give it everything I have.”
Bonaccorsi faces off against No. 7 South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan in that Championship bout Saturday night. He said that he will work with his coaches, focus on his own game and keep it simple, as he has done all season long.
“Obviously a really tough kid,” Bonaccorsi said about Sloan. “Solid in all positions. Lot of respect from him. I’m looking forward to going out and making it an ugly barn burner match. I hope it’s high scoring and I’m really excited.”
Head Coach Keith Gavin is the last National Champion for the Panthers, as he won the Title at 174 pounds in 2008. He believes that Bonaccorsi is ready to go for Saturday night and just needs to stick with what works.
“He’s prepared,” Gavin said. “All the work is done now. He’s in a great frame of mind and his skills look really awesome out there. I’m not getting in his way right now.”
The success that Bonaccorsi saw did not come for the other two Pitt wrestlers that competed Friday night.
No. 3 redshirt senior Cole Matthews (21-3) lost on tiebreakers, 2-1, to No. 17 Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio (20-13) at 141 pounds. D’Emilio made an escape early in the first period of tiebreakers and Matthews didn’t score, resulting in his loss.
This is the second time on Friday that Matthews lost in tiebreakers, with his 3-1 loss to No. 6 Penn State junior Beau Bartlett in the quarterfinals.
Gavin said that despite the loss, Matthews had a great season, but that he must fix his game to work in different ways offensively so that the doesn’t fall behind late. He also said that he’ll get through this and come back harder next year by committing to his offense.
“The bigger issue with Cole, and I think this is obvious, is that he’s got to start pulling the trigger,” Gavin said. “We’re screaming in the corner, especially on that last one, “You gotta shoot!” But I get it. He’s been rewarded for wrestling like that. He got fifth at this Tournament and was a first-time All-American last year. It was the same thing. No offense, counter offense and top. We talked about this afterwards, that it’s playing with fire.”
No. 9 redshirt senior Micky Phillippi (16-5) lost a 5-1 decision to No. 6 Virginia Tech’s Sam Latona (26-8) in the Round of 12. Latona made two takedowns and rode Phillippi for riding time, not allowing him many chances to score.
The loss for Phillippi ends his illustrious career with the Panthers in his sixth season with the program. Phillippi finishes as a five-time NCAA qualifier, three-time ACC Finalist and two-time ACC Champion
“He had a great career here,” Gavin said on Phillippi. “Not only that, Micky changed our program. He was the first guy to jump on board. He’s an incredible person. I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to coach him. What he did for this program, it can’t be overstated.”
Previous Pitt Wrestling Coverage from the NCAA Championships
Nino Bonaccorsi Makes it to Semifinals at NCAA Wrestling Championships
Matthews and Bonaccorsi Reach Quarterfinals for Pitt at NCAA Wrestling Championships
Pitt Sends Four Wrestlers into the Round of 16 at the NCAA Wrestling Championships