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Pitt Wrestling Finishes in Fourth Place at 2024 ACC Championships



Pitt Wrestling. 2024 ACC Wrestling Championships

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Pitt wrestling competed at the ACC Championships on Sunday at Carmichael Arena, and ended with a disappointing fourth place finish with 47.0 points.

The Panthers fourth place finish is the lowest since they ended in fifth place back in 2021 with 45.0 points. Only three Panthers solidified NCAA automatic bids and no Panther won an ACC individual title. This is the first time that the Panthers didn’t have an ACC champion since 2018, when they finished in last place, and just the third time, with the first coming in 2016.

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No. 1 Cole Matthews put on the best performance for Pitt wresting at 141 pounds. He wrestled No. 4 North Carolina redshirt sophomore Lachlan McNeil in the semifinals, a rematch of his 6-2 win over McNeil in the same building back on Feb. 9.

Two defensive wrestlers looked for chances but settled for a 1-1 draw to go into sudden victory. McNeil made a challenge on Matthews that almost got him, but Matthews caught McNeil’s leg, flipped around and got him for the takedown to win 4-1 in sudden victory.

He then faced an old foe in No. 2 NC State junior Ryan Jack in the Final, the only Pitt wrestler to make it to that stage. Matthews had five wins in five matches against Jack going into this, which included the past two ACC title matches and a 15-10 decision back on Jan. 26.

After both wrestlers made escapes to start the second and third periods respectively, they each looked to get opportunities to score.

Jack made an attack and while Matthews initially resisted it, Jack stuck with his movement and got Matthews for the late takedown, to win the ACC title on a 4-1 decision.

Matthews wished he got more on his feet and had more chances to score against Jack, but he isn’t going to dwell on this loss for long, with the NCAA Championships starting next week.

“I’m annoyed with the outcome, but I wrestled really well,” Matthews said. “I wrestled really well in both matches and I’m not going to think about it more than tonight. Just going to get ready for Nationals.”

“Good match,” Pitt wrestling head coach Keith Gavin said. “I think Cole had his opportunities to score in the first period and [Jack] kicked out of bounds and Cole needed have to finish that. His opponent had a good opportunity in the third and he finished that and that’s the difference in finishing your opportunities.”

Pitt wrestling saw four third place finishers in No. 4 redshirt first-years in Finn Solomon at 149 pounds, Mac Stout at 197 pounds and Dayton Pitzer at 285 pounds, along with No. 2 redshirt senior Reece Heller doing so at 184 pounds.

Pitzer made his first competitive appearance for the Panthers since dislocating his shoulder six weeks back against Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State.

He defeated No. 5 Duke first-year Connor Barket in a 1-0 decision on an escape in the First Round, but lost a 7-3 decision after riding time to No. 1 NC State junior Owen Trephan in the Semifinals.

The loss meant that Pitzer misses out on an automatic spot to the NCAA Championships, but he kept working the rest of the day to improve his stock for an at-large bid. He pinned No. 6 UNC redshirt sophomore Cade Lautt (5:40) in the Consolation Semifinals, and then dominated No. 3 Virginia junior Ryan Catka in the Third Place match, with a 7-0 decision on two takedowns.

Pitzer was happy to get back out onto the mat for Pitt Wrestling and thanked a great support system for helping him through a difficult time, physically and mentally.

“It feels good,” Pitzer said on his shoulder and wrestling again. “There’s definitely frustrating parts of it. Just try zero down and kind of control what I can control and I can’t go back and time and heal myself and make the injury not happen. So it’s just like, on to the next best thing and keep working towards that.

Stout held on for a 5-4 decision after riding time against No. 5 Cavaliers graduate student Krystian Kinsey in the First Round. He stood no chance against No. 1 Wolfpack redshirt senior Trent Hidlay, who defeated him on technical fall, 19-4 (7:00), in the Semifinals for the second time this season. 

He then faced No. 6 Blue Devils first-year Kwasi Bonsu in the Consolation Semifinals, defeating him on technical fall, 25-9 (6:05) after riding time to make it to the Third Place match. Virginia forfeited that match, with Kinsey not ready to wrestle, giving Stout Third Place.

Reece Heller had a First Round bye with a top two seed. He took on No. 3 NC State redshirt first-year Dylan Fishback in the Semifinals, winning a close 4-3 decision over Fishback on Jan. 26.

Fishback, unlike Reece Heller, started out with a takedown, and had a 4-2 lead in the third period. Reece Heller looked like he made a takedown on Fishback and head coach Keith Gavin challenged it, but the referees held the controversial call.

Despite some late attacks from Reece Heller, Fishback countered with a takedown and won an 8-2 decision after riding time.

Reece Heller then faced No. 5 Virginia fifth year Ethan Weatherspoon in the Consolation Semifinals, making two takedowns and holding on for an 8-4 decision after riding time.

No. 4 UNC junior Gavin Kane served as his opponent in the Third Place Match. Reece Heller used a takedown to get the initial lead and then a reversal in the third period helped him earn the 5-4 decision after riding time.

With both 184 pounds and 197 pounds having four automatic bids for the NCAA Championships, Reece Heller and Stout already earned their place next week, but finishing off in Third Place helped bolster the team score for Pitt wrestling.

Solomon took on No. 5 Cavaliers sophomore Michael Gioffre in the First Round. A back-and-forth match, Solomon initially took a sizable 7-2 lead before Gioffre came back and tied it up at 9-9 in the third period.

A move that garnered a takedown and three back points, set Solomon up for the 15-11 victory after riding time and an escape for Gioffre.

No. 1 Hokies sophomore Caleb Henson proved too much of a challenge for Solomon, who lost an 8-1 decision, with Henson making two decisions en route to the Final.

Solomon would stand strong and defeat No. 6 Blue Devils graduate student Jarred Papcsy in the Consolation Semifinals, 6-4 to make the Third Place Match.

He then battled No. 3 Tar Heels redshirt first-year Jayden Scott, getting a first period takedown and using great defense to win a 5-2 decision.

Despite the Third Place finish, Solomon must wait to see if he gets an at-large bid, as the ACC only had two automatic spots at 149 pounds.

No. 2 redshirt senior Holden Heller had a disappointing day that ended with a fourth place finish at 165 pounds.

Wrestling No. 3 Virginia Tech redshirt junior Connor Brady in the Semifinals, he surrendered a seven-point move on an early takedown plus four near fall points. Brady fended off attacks from Holden Heller the rest of the way, to take the 8-3 victory into the final.

This made it back-to-back seasons that Holden Heller defeated Brady in the dual meet, but lost to him in the ACC Semifinals.

The loss meant that he missed out on the two NCAA automatic spots at his weight class. Against No. 5 North Carolina redshirt sophomore Isaias Estrada, Holden Heller made a late takedown in the second period and built riding time to counteract a late takedown from Estrada for the slim 5-4 decision.

He then took on No. 1 NC State Derek Fields in the Third Place Match, looking for revenge after losing a 7-1 decision to him back on Jan. 26.

The two fought throughout the first three periods, but needed extra time. Fields would make an early takedown to win on sudden victory.

No. 4 redshirt first-year Vinnie Santaniello and No. 6 redshirt senior Colton Camacho also finished in fourth place at 133 and 125 pounds, respectively, for Pitt wrestling.

Santaniello defeated No. 5 Tar Heels redshirt sophomore Jace Palmer in an 8-3 decision on riding time in the First Round.

He then lost to No. 1 Wolfpack redshirt junior Kai Orine on a 10-0 major decision after riding time with three takedowns.

Santaniello had a much closer match than anticipated against No. 6 Blue Devils first-year Raymond Adams in the Consolation Semifinals, using his defense to win a 2-0 decision after riding time.

He faced No. 2 Cavaliers junior Marlon Yarbrough II in the Third Place match, in a must win bout. Yarbrough used an escape and got a point for stalling on Santaneillo to take a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.

Despite falling behind, Santaniello got an escape and looked to make a takedown, but Yarbrough countered and took him down to get the lead and finished with a 6-2 decision after riding time.

The loss for Santaniello ended his shot for an automatic bid at the NCAA Championships and it isn’t likely he’ll earn an at-large bid.

Camacho faced No. 3 North Carolina redshirt sophomore Spencer Moore to start off the day for Pitt Wrestling.

Both wrestlers struggled to land attacks and settled for extra time and then tie breakers. Camacho rode Moore for 23 seconds, but Moore managed to get a late escape, taking a 2-1 lead. Camacho got out quicker in the next round to tie the match, but had the advantage on riding time. Moore tired to score, but Camacho countered and scored on him, settling for the 5-2 decision to move on to the semifinals.

No. 2 Virginia Tech redshirt sophomore Cooper Flynn wrestled Camacho in the Semifinals. The two had another close match, after a 3-1 decision for Flynn on Feb. 16, with both tied 1-1 through the third period.

Flynn eventually made a good attack on Camacho, who initially blocked it, but relented and gave up the takedown. Camacho had a late escape, but Flynn won a 4-2 decision to move onto the final.

Camacho defeated No. 4 Virginia sophomore Kyle Montaperto in the Consolation Semifinals, where he used a second period takedown and riding time to ensure a 5-1 victory.

He then lost the rematch with Moore in the Third Place bout, as Moore made an escape and rode him for the entirety of the third period for a 2-0 decision.

Camacho missing out on the Title match meant that he also missed out one of the two automatic bids for the NCAA Championships. He walked on Senior night and it is likely that he may have wrestled his last match for Pitt.

No. 5 Panthers redshirt sophomore Luca Augustine only had to make it to the Third Place match and he would earn an automatic spot for the NCAA Championships at 174 pounds.

Going up against No. 4 Wolfpack fifth-year Alex Faison in the First Round, both struggled to complete attacks, with the score 1-1 after the first three periods and sudden victory.

Augustine established some riding time, but Faison made a reversal, earning a 4-1 lead after the first period of tiebreakers. Augustine would earn a point on stalling by Faison, but couldn’t make a takedown, as Faison won a 4-2 decision.

He needed a victory against No. 3 Tar Heels graduate student Tyler Eischens in the consolation semifinals and it was close throughout the third period, 2-1 to Eischens.

After defending a difficult position, Augustine stood strong and put Eischens straight up, but didn’t complete the move properly, falling onto his own back. Eischens then easily pinned Augustine, moving onto the Third Place Match.

Augustine defeated No. 6 Blue Devils redshirt first-year Gaetano Console in the Fifth Place Match, but needs an at-large bid to make the NCAA Championships.

No. 4 Pitt redshirt first-year Jared Keslar fell behind 12-2 to No. 5 Virginia sophomore Nick Sanko, but like their previous matchup, pinned him when Sanko least expected it to, putting him in the Semifinals.

He competed well with No. 1 UNC redshirt sophomore Sonny Santiago, but lost a 4-2 decision on a second period takedown.

Keslar then took on No. 6 Blue Devils junior Logan Ferrero in the consolation semifinals, who he majored 11-3 back on Feb. 2. Ferrero got his revenge, making a first period takedown and Keslar failed to complete an attack, losing a 5-2 decision after riding time.

Gavin hopes to see some of his wrestlers earn some at-large bids for the NCAA Championships, with some assurance in some, but less so in others who have stiff competition.

“Luca should be good and Dayton should be good,” Gavin said. “Those two I’m pretty confident in, but the rest, I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Pitt Wrestling didn’t have the best performance at the ACC Championships and Matthews noticed it, even with a solid outing from himself. He’ll get ready for the NCAA Championships, but he would’ve liked to see his teammates reach those heights as well.

“I think everyone can agree that we’re a little annoyed with our overall outcome today. Some guys wrestled really well and qualified, but having to hope for a bid is never a good feeling heading into Nationals. Luckily, I’ve never had that, but I’ve had experiences with old teammate where it’s like, you don’t know if you’re wrestling at Nationals and it’s really annoying.”

Pitt Wrestling will compete at the NCAA Championships at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo. next Thursday March 21-Saturday, March 23.

LIVE: Pitt Wrestling at ACC Championships: Updates, Results, Placements

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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