Connect with us

Pitt Wrestling

No. 19 Pitt Wrestling Defeats Illinois in Home Opener



Pitt wrestling. Holden Heller

PITTSBURGH — No. 19 Pitt Wrestling faced Illinois in their home opener and won many close matches, taking the duel 22-9 Sunday night at Fitzgerald Field House.

The Panthers (5-1) have won their third straight duel, with wins over then ranked No. 17 Lehigh on Nov. 19 and then Maryland on Nov. 20. The Panthers make it back-to-back seasons with a 5-1 start and a victory over the Fighting Illini (3-2), as they won 30-6 last December. The win also improves the Panthers to 6-1 in the all-time series against the Fighting Illini and three consecutive victories as well.

Pitt wrestling coverage on Pittsburgh Sports Now is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club.
Pittsburgh Wrestling Club

“Good win,” Pitt wrestling head coach Keith Gavin said on the victory. “There were a lot of close matches and we had a lot of gritty wins I felt like.”

Pitt redshirt first-year Jared Keslar (6-5) faced off against Illinois redshirt junior Joe Roberts (4-0) in the first bout of the night at 157 pounds. Both wrestlers came into the third period tied at 1-1 with an escape each, but Moore broke the deadlock with a takedown. Keslar would get a reversal, but an escape from Moore and riding time gave him the 6-3 decision.

The Panthers looked like they might lose their second match of the night, with No. 9 redshirt senior Holden Heller (6-0) down 7-1 to first-year Chris Moore (1-1) at 165 pounds, after Moore made a takedown and then got four back points.

Holden Heller then escaped and made a takedown to cut the deficit to two, but Moore made an escape late and then another to start the third period to increase the advantage to 9-5. Holden Heller then got another takedown with an escape from Moore to cut the lead to two before making the comeback with a final takedown that came with less than 10 seconds remaining.

Holden Heller gave credit to the home Pitt wrestling fans for helping him make the comeback, giving him energy when he was down early to get a big win for his team, who needed it at that moment in the match.

“I think it was super simple, I kind of just turned my brain off,” Heller said on making the comeback. “You don’t want to overthink everything. At the end of the day, the mindset you want to have going into a match is you want to outscore your opponent and no matter how much you’re down or up or whatever. The best thing I could’ve done was just go out there and score points and that’s what I did. I was selfless. I knew that it was a match my team needed to win. So, I dug deep and I made sure I got over the line.”

“His offense is better this year,” Gavin said on Holden Heller. “He’s getting to the other guy’s leg quite a bit now. So that’s great. We have a difficult schedule, so he’s going to wrestle some of the top guys in the country and I know he’s excited about that opportunity.”

Pitt No. 20 redshirt sophomore Luca Augustine (5-1) started off with a takedown against Illinois No. 4 redshirt junior Edmond Ruth (5-0) at 174 pounds. Ruth would respond, making two escapes and then a takedown to earn a 5-3 advantage in the second period. Augustine did escape to cut the deficit to one, but Ruth made two more takedowns to win on an 11-5 decision.

No. 15 redshirt senior Reece Heller (9-1) got the Panthers back to winning ways with an 11-3 major decision over Fighting Illini No. 26 redshirt sophomore Dylan Connell (2-3) at 184 pounds. The major decision gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead in the duel, one which they never relinquished.

Pitt No. 15 redshirt first-year Mac Stout (9-2) dominated early in his duel with Illinois redshirt junior Isiah Pettigrew (2-3) at 197 pounds, getting a takedown and a reversal to start up 5-0. Despite a late takedown from Pettigrew, Stout held on for a 7-4 decision after riding time.

The biggest match of the night came with Panthers No. 11 redshirt first-year Dayton Pitzer (5-1) facing off against Fighting Illini No. 8 redshirt senior Luke Luffman (4-1) in a battle of heavyweights

Pitzer fell behind initially 2-0, but used an escape and a takedown to take a 4-3 lead. He would hold off shots from Luffman and got a late takedown with four back points to take a 10-3 decision.

“I thought his win was really good and he won it on his feet,” Gavin said on Pitzer. “He’s known as a top guy and that didn’t go as planned and he went and took the guy down with his offense. So that’s a lot of progress from last season. So really, really happy with that.”

The victory for Pitzer is his third straight against a ranked opponent, all coming in the last three duels. He won a close 2-0 decision over then ranked No. 11 Nathan Taylor of Lehigh and another close decision, 4-3, against No. 19 Seth Nevills of Maryland in back-to-back days, earning him ACC Wrestler of the Week honors.

“It’s good, but at the end of day, it doesn’t really matter whether the guy’s ranked or not, I just got to go and hustle hard,” Pitzer said on facing tougher opponents.

Redshirt senior Colton Camacho (4-4) hasn’t had the best of starts for Pitt wrestling, but demonstrated his experience in his duel with Illinois redshirt senior Justin Cardani (2-3) at 125 pounds. Camacho patiently waited for his chance to strike and got a takedown late in the third period to earn a 4-0 decision.

Panthers No. 17 redshirt first-year Vinnie Santaniello (6-4) fell behind on a takedown from No. 24 Fighting Illini redshirt senior Tony Madrigal (1-1) in the first period at 133 pounds. Santaniello would attempt the late reversal and managed to get a point on a technical violation, as Madrigal locked his hands. Santaniello made two reversals to take the lead at the end of the second period and would hold on for the 5-4 decision.

Pitt No. 13 redshirt senior Cole Matthews (3-3) fell behind in the third period to Illinois No. 27 redshirt sophomore Danny Pucino (3-2) on a takedown at 141 pounds. Matthews used an escape and then forced Pucino to receive two stalling warnings to earn a point late and send the match to sudden victory. He would eventually lose as Pucnio made a takedown to earn the 6-3 sudden victory.

The loss for Matthews is his third on the season, which is the same he had all of last season, 21-3. Gavin says that a lot of his early struggles come from the mental side of it, rather than physical, which he hopes he’ll get out of soon back to his best form.

“I think he’s in a bit of slump and that can happen,” Gavin said. “It’s just important not to overreact and think you have to change everything. It’s just kind of getting back to who you are and obviously he’s still trying to get better at wrestling, but slumps happen. Just trying to keep him unemotional about it.”

Panthers No. 23 redshirt first-year Finn Solomon (10-2) fell behind early in his match against Fighting Illini redshirt sophomore Jake Harrier (2-4), suffering a takedown and then four back points to go down 7-1. Solomon did make a late takedown at the end of the first period, made an escape to start the second period and then another takedown to comeback and earn an 8-7 advantage.

Harrier responded with a reversal, but Solomon escaped to keep it tied at 9-9 heading into the third period. Solomon won the match 12-11 on a takedown and holding off shots from Harrier to finish off the duel for the Panthers with a win.

Pitt wrestling faces off against No. 5 Ohio State next Sunday, Dec. 10 in Columbus at Noon, which the Big Ten Network will broadcast.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
Click to comment
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend