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No. 24 Pitt wrestling knocks off No. 20 Virginia, 19-17

Photo used with permission of University of Pittsburgh athletics department -

Pitt's wrestling team came into tonight's meet against Virginia having lost five straight. Sure, four of those were to top 15 teams, but the No. 24 Panthers still could have used a victory. They got one in a 19-17 win over No. 20 ranked Virginia, moving to 10-6 on the season (2-3 in the ACC).

Things got off to a promising start for the Panthers with back-to-back wins by L.J. Bentley (125 pounds) and Dom Forys (133 pounds). Forys had a major-decision victory and that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with Bentley's win.

After that, the Panthers had some struggles. Upset of the night went to Virginia's unranked Justin Van Hoose as he raced out to an 8-1 start against No. 10 Mikey Racciato and went on to an 11-4 win. Robert Lee lost an uninspiring bout at 149 and Ronnie Garbinsky was routed at 157 pounds, losing 10-1. All of a sudden, the Panthers' seven-point team lead turned into a three-point deficit.

The meet took a turn with Cody Wiercioch at 165 pounds. If we had a 'Turning Point of the Game' as we do for football, this would be it. Wiercioch came out much more aggressive than the last three guys did and got an early lead. He had three takedowns in the first 1:30 and I'm not sure if it was something the coaches said or something he did on his own, but he changed the tone of the match. Even with the lead, I thought he was the aggressor and gave the Panthers something they were missing. Wiercioch ended up winning 12-6 to tie the team score.

That was the spark the team needed and TeShan Campbell (174 pounds) came out and grabbed a pin to put Pitt back up, 16-10. As he likes to do, he sort of sat back a little before making his move. The announcer pointed it out, but he's so quick and that's especially when you consider his size. The tone stayed the same, though, as it did in the Wiercioch match. He took his shots and didn't bother wasting a ton of time. Every point counts and the pin that he got instead of a three-point decision was a determining factor.

Zach Bruce couldn't keep things going, though, as he dropped a major decision at 184 pounds. He suffered some sort of injury as he was slammed down to the mat on one sequence and his loss made it 16-14, Pitt.

At 197, Nick Bonaccorsi had a tough task in facing No. 13 Zack Nye. This was billed as the match of the night and it pretty much lived up to that. Bonaccorsi did a heck of a job staying aggressive and, more importantly, avoiding a near takedown as action went out of bounds in the first period. Escapes by both to start off the second and third periods tied things up at 1-1 and it remained that way until late in the third. Nye got a takedown with about thirty seconds left in the bout and won, 3-1. That put Virginia up 17-16 and officially meant things would come down to the heavyweight battle.

Pitt's Ryan Solomon battled Virginia's Pat Gillen in the final matchup. Things went scoreless in the first period, but after Gillen escaped in the second, Solomon scored a big takedown to make it 2-1. Gillen unfortunately got away, making it 2-2 heading into the third, but Solomon picked that point back up almost immediately with his own escape to go up 3-2. He was able to hold off a late charge and win his bout, and the dual for the team.

Overall, it was a rough senior night with both both senior starters, Garbinsky and Bonaccorsi, falling short. But that was a somewhat minor note as the Panthers picked up a ranked win, their second of the season.

The Panthers have one more dual on the season, facing Clarion on the road on Sunday afternoon.

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