We don't do a whole lot of wrestling coverage here, but Pitt's recent match against Penn State was noteworthy, to say the least.
The Panthers put up an early fight, but eventually lost to top-ranked Penn State, 28-9 on the road. The event was a big one and if you've got any doubt about the popularity of wrestling within the state, look no further than the record crowd of nearly 16,000 folks that showed up to watch at the Bryce Jordan Center. Black Shoe Diaries has some nice photos of the action.
The big takeaway no matter what recap you read was that the atmosphere was amazing:
“This is awesome,’’ Taylor said. “You think about going to school as a kid -- it doesn’t matter what sport it is -- and you think about going to do it in front of a lot of people.
“You don’t get a lot of opportunities in front of 15,000 people. To finally get out there and have that many people at Penn State for a wrestling match is pretty special.’’
Coaches from both teams agreed as well.
“Any time you can get 15,000, or whatever the final count was, to see a dual meet, it’s a great environment,” said Pitt coach Jason Peters, who won a PIAA championship for Hershey High School in 1992.
Pitt really got off to a good start with Shelton Mack winning the 133-pound weight class matchup to tie the score at 3-3. The Panthers even took the lead at 9-6 with Mike Racciato's win in the 149-pound class. Pitt first-year coach Jason Peters said that match gave the Panthers a spark:
“Mikey does a good job of wrestling whistle-to-whistle and giving himself a chance to win,” Pitt coach Jason Peters said. “When he's scrambling, he's real dangerous. The Penn State guy took a shot. He came out, got his hips up and came out on top. That put some spark in us.”
But alas, Penn State won the next six matchups in a row, providing the final score.
Don't be too deterred by this one. It would have been nice to see Pitt compete a bit better, but at No. 11 in the country, the wrestling program still is above average. Next up, Pitt (3-1) takes on Bucknell over the weekend.
The basketball program is the one that gets the attention when we talk about successful programs, but as I've said before, the wrestling program has been one of Pitt's better ones as well. The baseball program had arguably their best season ever last year and the gymnastics program was ranked, too. With women's basketball now under the direction of Suzie McConnell-Serio and a top 15 recruiting class for next year, the hope is that they're going to be competitive again, too.
Lots to pay attention to if you're a Pitt fan.