Pitt’s wrestling team entered the season ranked in the Top 25 and while they weren’t expected to contend for a national championship or anything, with three ranked wrestlers, they were expected to make a little noise.
On an individual basis, things looked even better as Nick Zanetta moved into the rankings as well. After some good performances early, that gave the Panthers four Top 20 wrestlers in their respective weight classes. Despite that, Pitt has been beaten pretty badly in its team duals.
The team only narrowly defeated Cal-Bakersfield in the opener but as the Panthers were without a few guys, including Dom Forys, that wasn’t a total shock. But after that narrow win, things have kind of come off the tracks.
First, Pitt lost to both ranked Wisconsin and Arizona State that same weekend. The end result of those losses wasn’t shocking but how the Panthers were dominated definitely was. Pitt managed only six points in each loss with only Zanetta, Solomon, and Kellen Stout picking up wins.
Things didn’t get any better after that. The Panthers then lost a dual to unranked West Virginia and, like the ranked losses, the ugly 14-point defeat was another one where things weren’t all that close. Pitt got Forys back for that dual, but they still didn’t have nearly enough as the final score indicated.
Yesterday’s dual against Clarion was closer, but still resulted in a loss to a pretty weak program. The win was their first victory in a dual of the season (1-2) and with only one ranked wrestler, it’s not a program would expect Pitt to lose to with four ranked guys on their roster.
Pitt now sits at 1-4 when nothing worse than 3-2 is really acceptable. As I mentioned in the Clarion writeup yesterday, Pitt is just not getting nearly enough contributions from other guys. This didn’t have the look of a year that should have been a total rebuild. Four ranked wrestlers gives the team a pretty good advantage right off the bat. You basically just need to avoid disasters, such as pins, and win a few of the tossups. On Saturday, the Panthers did neither.
Several weights have been issues in duals this year. 174 pounds has been an issue for Pitt as Austin Bell’s been pinned five times already (including tournaments). If that keeps up, they’re going to have to look at replacing him. There have been problems at 149 where Robert Lee and Alex Murray are a combined 1-4 in duals. 125 should be better now with the return of Bentley but he sort of underwhelmed last year and that weight class has been winless this year. Plus, despite looking okay on Saturday, Bentley still lost 8-2. Kellen Stout is only 1-4 at 197 pounds but he’s faced a really tough schedule with three ranked opponents. I’m less concerned there because of his difficult slate, but that’s four weights where Pitt’s got virtually no production this season in terms of points - and that’s too many.
All of that said, I still have a lot of faith in coach Gavin and his staff. Pitt has a good amount of inexperience on its roster and that’s going to be the case next year, too, as the team inserts some new faces. But one thing is pretty clear - the Panthers have quite a few holes to fill and despite having some talent are also in a rebuilding mode, which is kind of unfortunate because they have some real talent at a few spots. If even a few of those other classes performed better, this could be a top 20 team.
One bright spot is that several guys this year could make some noise at nationals and threaten to become All-Americans. But on the team front, there are too many weaknesses in several classes and that’s disappointing given the four ranked guys they have that have been mostly carrying the load.