Pitt wrestling’s duals season began on Friday as the Panthers took on Cal-Bakersfield and then No. 18 Wisconsin in a pair of back-to-back meets.
No. 25 Pitt began with Cal-Bakersfield and pulled out a 21-18 victory. Things got off to a really slow start with Pitt missing starters at 125 pounds (L.J. Bentley) and 133 pounds (Dom Forys). The Panthers quickly fell behind as their replacements, Brendan Price and freshman Jake Cherry, respectively, both lost. Cherry’s loss really hurt as he was beaten, 15-0 and that put Pitt in a quick 8-0 hole. Cal-Bakersfield added three more to their team lead with No. 19 Russell Rohlfing defeating Nick Zanetta at 141 pounds to make it an 11-0 deficit.
Fortunately, Pitt picked up a lot of ground in the middle weights. Robert Lee scored a win at 149 pounds and No. 17 ranked Taleb Rahmani, as he often does, scored a pin (he led Pitt in pins last season, I believe) to cut the lead to 11-9. Jake Wentzel was dominant at 165 pounds with a 15-0 win over a top 20 wrestler, giving Pitt its first lead of the night, 14-11.
Tommy O’Brien filled in for Austin Bell at 174 pounds and lost but Gregg Harvey won his bout at 184 pounds to keep Pitt ahead, 17-14. I’m not sure if Harvey has officially beaten out last year’s starter Zach Bruce but he was pretty impressive. After Penn State transfer Kellen Stout was dominated at 197 pounds, No. 8 Ryan Solomon, as he often has to do, bailed the team out with a 10-0 major victory to secure the team win.
The victory, of course, was the first for new head coach Keith Gavin as he gets his career off on the right foot.
Unfortunately, while Pitt was competitive against Cal-Bakersfield, that wasn’t the case against the Badgers as the Panthers were routed, 26-6.
Facing No. 18 Wisconsin, Pitt again got off to a slow start in the lower weights. Both Price and Cherry were beaten again to fall behind 6-0. Zanetta scored a 7-3 win to cut the lead in half but Robert Lee dropped a decision to make it 9-3 in favor of Wisconsin.
Pitt got kind of a tough break in the next match with Rahmani dropping a 3-1 decision at 157 pounds. He seemed in position for a win as he was set to pick up a 2-1 win with riding time but gave up a takedown in the final ten seconds and lost the riding time point. Gavin appealed to ref as he thought Rahmani previously earned a takedown, but to no avail and Pitt was down 12-3 and the rout was on.
Wentzel, O’Brien, Zach Bruce (who got the nod over Harvey at 184 in that dual), and Stout all dropped their matches to put them behind even further. Solomon won his bout 4-0 and was the only Pitt wrestler to win two matches on the night.
Overall, it was kind of an up and down night. The loss to Wisconsin isn’t a killer since they’re a top 20 program. But you would have liked to see Pitt be more competitive in that one. I also don’t know the status of Bentley, Forys, or Bell right now. Hopefully those guys will be ready to go soon. It’s hard to see Pitt being too competitive without them in there based on what we saw from the replacements tonight, who went a combined 0-6.
197 could be a problem area for Pitt as Kellen Stout had kind of a rough night, losing both of his bouts. The team really doesn’t have any other alternatives there save for moving a guy like Harvey up and letting Bruce have 184.
Some good things tonight, but we also saw there are some holes to fill while guys are out.