The slide for the wrestling program continued on Sunday as the Panthers dropped another match. This time, Pitt lost to Bucknell, 20-16. If you’re wondering how good this Bucknell program is, they were routed by the same CSU-Bakersfield team that Pitt managed to defeat earlier for its only win.
The Panthers were their first win of the year (to be fair, they’ve had a very difficult schedule facing three ranked teams) as they moved to 1-4. Pitt drops to 1-5.
Pitt won its first two matches with L.J. Bentley (125 pounds) and #11 Dom Forys (133 pounds) picking up wins but they dropped the next two for a 7-7 score. #20 Taleb Rahmani recorded his second win of the weekend at 157 pounds but then the wheels predictably came off the track. Most of the bouts were close but Pitt lost at 165, 174, 184, and 197 pounds. Missing in action was starter Jake Wentzel at 165 and his replacement, Curtis Decker, was on the wrong end of a major decision.
No. #15 heavyweight Ryan Solomon got his second straight pin of the weekend but, as was the case against Clarion on Saturday, Pitt was too far behind and it didn’t matter in the team score.
Afterward, head coach Keith Gavin tried to diagnose the problem.
"We are losing these duals because we have some guys out there competing with a fear of losing," said head coach Keith Gavin. "A couple of our guys are competing with the right mentality but until our whole lineup starts to value the process instead of winning, we will continue to struggle in duals. It's an issue we identified early in the year, but it takes time and we aren't there yet."
The problem is pretty clear. Pitt is just getting next to nothing in too many weight classes. The guys at, say, 149, 165, 174, 184, and 197 don’t need to be lights out but they need to get some wins. Robert Lee is out of action and Stout has wrestled a lot of close matches, so maybe there’s a chance for more at 149 and 197, respectively. But right now, those five classes aren’t giving Pitt much at all. The biggest frustration for me is seeing the efforts of so many talented guys being thrown away from a team perspective. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a team entirely devoid of talent. Rather, it’s a team lacking enough talent at many weights.
Pitt is pretty solid in four weights and possibly five if Bentley produces. If you’re looking for a positive this weekend, it’s that they should now at least be competitive again at 125 pounds with Bentley’s return.
But they’re also barely getting any wins in the other five weights and that makes for a lot of losing because even the best guys they have aren’t going to win every time out. Nick Zanetta, for example, is ranked at 141 pounds. But he’s also faced several tough wrestlers so far this year and is 3-3 in duals. Only three guys (Solomon, Forys, Rahmani) have winning dual records and several guys are either winless or have won only once. That’s just not enough production.
Until Pitt gets more competitive at some of the other weights, the embarrassing losses such as today are likely to continue.