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Banged up No. 23 Pitt wrestling tops West Virginia, 23-15

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Photo used with permission of University of Pittsburgh athletics department - www.pittsburghpanthers.com

Pitt was without two of their three ranked wrestlers this weekend, but still had enough to defeat West Virginia on Sunday, winning 23-15.

Pitt got off to a good start with L.J. Bentley (125 pounds) easily winning (scoring a major decision) his first dual match of the year to give the Panthers a quick lead. But the momentum didn't last long with the team's best wrestler, No. 7 Dom Forys not participating at 133 pounds with an injury. Ben Ross went in his place but was outmatched. Robert Lee dropped a really tough match at 141 pounds, giving up a reversal in the last few seconds when he had a one-point lead. That gave West Virginia a 6-4 team lead.

Things turned around for Pitt after that. Mikey Racciato got a much needed win at 149 pounds (his first dual win since the team's opener) and Taleb Rahmani, not only won as well, but scored a pin in less than a minute to put Pitt up 13-6. Racciato has really struggled this season so it was good to see him win his bout. Rahmani got the start last week over Jake Wentzel, who is battling some sort of injury. They were listed as co-starters this week again in the pre-match notes with Rahmani getting the nod.

No. 11 Teshan Campbell was matched up against an 0-5 freshman wrestler from West Virginia and it looked like we might see a blowout. But instead, it was sort of an unusual match. As the announcers said, Campbell often likes to release wrestlers after scoring a takedown in order to accumulate more takedowns. But in his match today, he opted to accumulate a lot of riding time and that kept the scoring down. Campbell also seemed to suffer a hamstring injury or cramp, so perhaps that played into it, too. In the third period, Campbell even chose to start on top, instead of starting at the bottom to try to gain an escape point. It was probably the most slow-paced Campbell match I've ever seen against a weaker opponent. In all, he had over six minutes of riding time, which is virtually unheard of - especially for someone like him who likes to wrestle aggressively.

Campbell seemed tired or frustrated at the end, even cutting his opponent loose and giving up a point at the end with a few seconds left. Just a really odd match but it put Pitt up 16-6.

At 174 pounds, the decision to get freshman Austin Bell into the lineup is starting to pay dividends. Bell dominated in getting out to a 4-0 lead and eventually picked up his first dual win of the year with a big 9-0 victory. Bell was very impressive and hopefully with more meets, he just continues to improve. He could be a really big part of what the team is able to do in the future.

We had yet another change at 184 with Cam Jacobson getting the start there. Last week, we saw Christian Dietrich move from 174 to 184, but he didn't go today. Jacobson's typically been listed as a potential starter at 174 but moved up a class this week. He dropped his match to cut it to 20-9.

Pitt looked to have yet another injury issue at 197 with regular starter Zach Bruce out. That proved to be costly as his backup, Jacob Parker, was completely overmatched, getting pinned by a Top 10 wrestler, Jacob Smith, to cut things to 20-15.

That bought things down to the heavyweight class to decide things. There, the Panthers were absent No. 15 wrestler Ryan Solomon, forcing John Rizzo into action. Rizzo was heavily outweighed by his opponent but managed a 2-1 win in overtime to give the Panthers a 23-15 team score win.

That's a really solid win for Pitt considering the number of guys they had out of action. The Panthers had a really ugly showing against No. 1 Oklahoma State the last time out, but rebounded well with the team win today.

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