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Pitt Wrestling NCAA Championships Preview



Pitt Wrestling

Pitt Wrestling is readying to compete at the NCAA Championships this Thursday through Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., with seven wrestlers preparing for the biggest competition in their sport in the country.

The Panthers finished the dual regular season 10-8 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. They started out the season 7-3 through the end of 2023, but lost five out of the first six duals of 2024, before winning their final two against the Rider Broncs and the Virginia Cavaliers on Feb. 22-23, respectively.

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Pittsburgh Wrestling Club

Pitt earned impressive wins on the road over then ranked No. 17 Lehigh on Nov. 19 and then ranked No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 10. They also lost home duals to then ranked No. 5 Oklahoma State on Jan. 21, then ranked No. 24 Arizona State on Jan. 21, then ranked No. 8 NC State on Jan. 26 and No. 13 Virginia Tech on Feb. 16.

Pitt wrestling struggled at the ACC Championships last Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C., finishing with in Fourth Place and with no individual champions.

They only earned three individual automatic bids in redshirt seniors Cole Matthews and Reece Heller at 141 and 184 pounds, respectively, as well as redshirt first-year Mac Stout at 197 pounds. Despite the low initial number, the Panthers will bring seven wrestlers, with the NCAA awarding four with at-large bids in redshirt first-years Finn Solomon and Dayton Pitzer at 149 and 285 pounds, respectively, redshirt sophomore Luca Augustine at 174 pounds and redshirt senior Holden Heller at 165 pounds.

The seven qualifiers ties the most for head coach Keith Gavin, who would’ve brought the same in 2020 if not for COVID-19, since he took over prior in 2017. It is also the most for Pitt since they brought eight wrestlers back in 2014, when they won the 2014 ACC dual team title.

Pittsburgh Sports Now will have news on Pitt Wrestling throughout the NCAA Championships, with Dominic Campbell providing coverage all weekend long.

Pitt Wrestling NCAA Championships Preview

141 Pounds: No. 18 Cole Matthews
16-10 overall record
5-9 record against NCAA Wrestlers this season
17-12 record against NCAA Wrestlers over career

Matthews has had a wild, final sixth season of collegiate wrestling, which will culminate, regardless of result, this weekend.

He finished 2023 with a 6-8 record overall, after a 21-3 finish last season, which included just one regular season defeat, and he looked close to dropping out of the rankings entirely.

Then, late January hit and he has won seven straight matches, including all five in the ACC, earning him the No. 1 spot at 141 pounds.

These wins came against two top five wrestlers in NC State No. 4 junior Ryan Jack and North Carolina No. 5 redshirt sophomore Lachlan McNeil, in 15-10 and 6-2 decisions, respectively.

Matthews defeated McNeil in the ACC semifinals, but lost to Jack in the final, the first time in six matches against him, to finish in second place.

He faces No. 15 Rutgers graduate student Mitch Moore (15-6) in the Round of 32. They faced off once back in 2020, which Moore won 4-2 wrestling for Virginia Tech.

A win for Matthews would likely set him up with a rematch against No. 2 Penn State senior Beau Bartlett (19-1) in the Round of 16. Bartlett defeated Matthews at the 2023 NCAA Championships in the Quarterfinals, 3-1 in tiebreakers.

149 Pounds: No. 31 Finn Solomon
18-10 Overall Record
1-8 record against NCAA Wrestlers this Season
2-9 against NCAA Wrestlers in Career

Solomon used a strong performance at the ACC Championships, finishing in Third Place, to ensure he earned one of the last at-large bids at 149 pounds.

He has a tough draw, with a rematch against No. 2 Arizona State redshirt junior Kyle Parco in the Round of 32. Parco defeated Solomon in a 9-2 decision back at Fitzgerald Field House on Jan. 21. 

While it is likely that he won’t progress past the Round of 32, Solomon has a chance to potentially move forward through the Wrestlebacks or Consolations.

This experience, regardless of result, will serve as great experience for the Franklin Regional alum, who took a chance on himself to transfer back home from NC State last season.

165 Pounds: No. 25 Holden Heller
13-7 Overall Record
4-7 against NCAA Wrestlers this Season
7-13 against NCAA Wrestlers in Career

Holden Heller will compete at the NCAA Championships for one last time in his sixth season of collegiate wrestling.

His season started off great, 7-0, then he lost five straight matches and then won five straight to end the regular season 12-5 overall. The ACC Championships didn’t go as well, as he finished in fourth place, but a strong schedule earned him an at-large bid.

Holden Heller takes on No. 8 Nebraska first-year Antrell Taylor (20-7) in the Round of 32 in their first ever matchup. A win would likely set up him up with a rematch from the Consolations last year in No. 9 West Virginia senior Peyton Hall (26-7), who he defeated 9-7 in sudden victory.

With this as his last NCAA Championships, Holden Heller has one final chance to finish as an All-American and will need to defeat some top ranked wrestlers along the way to do so.

174 Pounds: No. 23 Luca Augustine
14-6 Overall Record
7-5 against NCAA Wrestlers this Season
10-14 against NCAA Wrestlers in Career

Augustine had a solid regular season as a whole, but finished in fifth place at the ACC Championships, resorting to needing an at-large bid to make it back for his second appearance at the NCAA Championships.

He will look to get himself his first win at the NCAA Championships this time around, as he lost both of his matches last year.

No. 10 Penn junior Nick Incontrera (24-5) is his opponent  in the Round of 32. If Augustine gets his first win at the NCAA Championships, he’d likely wrestle No. 7 Columbia senior Lennox Wolak (15-5), who defeated him twice last season, in a dual and at the NCAA Championships.

184 Pounds: No. 15 Reece Heller
20-6 Overall Record
5-5 against NCAA Wrestlers this Season
7-7 against NCAA Wrestlers in Career

Reece Heller holds the highest ranking for anyone from Pitt wrestling heading into the NCAA Championships, a testament to his high ranking throughout the season and then Third Place finish at the ACC Championships.

He faces No. 18 Ohio State first-year Ryder Rogotzke in the First Round, their first bout against each other. Both wrestlers love to pin and also suffer falls themselves, so this should serve as a great matchup. He will look to make it to the Round of 16 for the first time, and will likely have No. 2 Minnesota senior Isaiah Salazar (21-1) as his opponent.

Reece Heller does have one more season of eligibility, but to prove himself to the rest of the country, he needs to excel at this level this upcoming weekend.

197 Pounds: No. 21 Mac Stout
21-6 Overall Record
against NCAA Wrestlers this Season

Stout makes his first appearance at the NCAA Championships, a part of a great family tradition. His older brother, Kellen, competed at the 2019 NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh. He also has another older brother in Luke Stout, who is a junior at Princeton and holds the No. 16 seed.

He faces No. 12 Missouri junior Rocky Elam (11-3), who finished in Third Place at the NCAA Championships last season, in the Round of 32.

A win for Stout likely pairs him up with No. 5 Cornell senior Jacob Cardenas (22-6) in the Round of 16 Thursday night. Cardenas defeated Stout in a close 2-1 decision back at the National Collegiate Duals in Nashville, Tenn. on Dec. 18.

285 Pounds: No. 21 Dayton Pitzer
11-5 Overall Record
3-5 against NCAA Wrestlers this Season
6-7 against NCAA Wrestlers in Career

Pitzer had a solid start to the season, but dislocated his shoulder against Arizona State No. 4 redshirt junior Colton Schultz in late January, which kept him out for the entirety of the ACC schedule.

He missed six weeks of action, but returned for the ACC Championships last Sunday to try and make it further into the postseason. He did lose in the semifinals, but won Third Place, which helped him to secure an at-large bid.

Pitzer has a rematch with No. 12 Oklahoma State redshirt junior Konner Doucet (19-9), who defeated him on a 3-0 decision back on Jan.  12 at home. If Pitzer is victorious, he most likely faces No. 5 Lehigh junior Nathan Taylor (23-3) in the Round of 16, who he beat in a 2-0 decision on the road on Nov. 19.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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