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Pitt’s No. 1 Nino Bonaccorsi Finishes Perfect Season with National Title at 197 Pounds



TULSA, Okla. — No.1 Pitt redshirt junior Nino Bonaccorsi finished his collegiate career by winning the National Title at 197 pounds Saturday night at the BOK Center.

Bonaccorsi (21-0) took on No. 7 South Dakota State senior Tanner Sloan (27-3) in that National Title match. Sloan started off strong with a takedown on Bonaccorsi and then escaped to start with a 3-0 lead in the second period.

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Despite falling behind, Bonaccorsi stay composed and ready to attack. He grabbed Sloan’s right leg, put it on his shoulder and kicked Sloan’s left leg from under him, forcing him to the ground and earning the takedown to cut the lead to one after the second period.

Bonaccorsi then took the lead with another takedown in the third period by grabbing Sloan’s right leg again and putting him on his back.

The important thing for Bonaccorsi is that instead of continuing to shoot and score more points, he rode Sloan to keep him from scoring.

This also gave Bonaccorsi a point at the end as he held off Sloan’s attacks and won the National Title on a 5-3 decision.

For Bonaccorsi, him staying calm, cool and collected despite going down early shows his maturation over his career. He said that at times in the past, he used to panic and worry if things didn’t go his way. Now, he has focused his mentality on sticking to his strategy and it worked out for him great in a perfect season.

“This past year I just worried about not worrying about what the score is and not even worrying about winning or losing, just continuing to wrestle my way,” Bonaccorsi said. “And that’s hard every minute no matter where the score is, down 8-0, up 8-0 and I’m always trying to win the next point and it worked out.”

Bonaccorsi had the opportunity to win a National Title, as he made it to the final 2021 as a No. 6 seed, but lost to No. 4 A.J. Ferrari of Oklahoma State.

This National Title is the first for a Pitt wrestler since head coach Keith Gavin did so at 174 pounds in 2008, something that Bonaccorsi will always take great pride in.

“It’s great,” Bonaccorsi said about becoming Gavin’s first National Champion. “We always talked about that it’s about getting better every day. It’s not what you were. It’s about the daily process of just trying to get better every day. And that’s what me and him had a similar bond. And we love this sport just because of that aspect of you can go in and hone your craft and see visible results every day.”

Gavin said that it was even better to see Bonaccorsi win a National Title than himself achieving that goal back when he wrestled in college. Gavin also credited Bonaccorsi for staying with it in the match and believed in Bonaccorsi the entire way, especially due to his development as a wrestler over these past two years.

“He’s always had a great mentality,” Gavin said. “He’s matured a lot, mentally, but his skill development, that ride he put on tonight, that’s something he couldn’t do a couple years ago. His setups, his re-attacks. That’s just him working on developing his skill everyday.”

Gavin arrived in 2017 to coach the Panthers and has helped to rebuild the program from embarrassing lows to now creating National Champions.

Bonaccorsi, along with redshirt seniors in best friend Micky Phillippi and also Cole Matthews, have changed the program for the better. Gavin says that it’s even more important for Bonaccorsi to achieve this because he is from Bethel Park, a suburb right outside of Pittsburgh, which allowed him to demonstrate his and Pitt’s strength as a hometown hero.

“I think the coolest thing is that he did it in his hometown,” Gavin said. “He wrestles in the Fitzgerald Field House, that’s a real home match. He’s got that Pitt singlet on, that’s his home team. That’s pretty special. You don’t get to do that at other places. It’s just so fitting he’s our first National Champion.”

Bonaccorsi said that Pennsylvania is the best wrestling state and that the WPIAL and the Pittsburgh area as whole reflect that. He hopes that his National Title inspires local kids to come to Pitt and achieve their dreams in front of their home town teams.

“I think just over these past few years, with Keith coming in and just our culture as a team and we’re having individuals place high, we’re doing well in team aspects, you don’t need to travel far to be an elite level school and win national titles,” Bonaccorsi said. “And for guys outside of Pittsburgh, you can come here and win. It doesn’t have to be any big top 10 programs, these big conferences. You can come to the ACC, could many to Pitt, and your dreams will come true.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

What an incredible feat. Congratulations, Young Man. Could the Olympics be on the docket??…

1 year ago

Great JOB to bad local media doesn’t cover a whole lot better, came from years of work and sacrifices.Outside of Olympic gold highest honor in toughest sport. God bless A true scholar athlete!

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