PItt’s wrestling team has been using the hashtag ‘pinzburgh’ all season long and today, it was more than fitting.
The Panthers (2-6) got a pin by heavyweight Ryan Solomon in his match, the final bout of the day, to win the team dual on Sunday, defeating No. 18 Oklahoma in thrilling fashion, 19-18. It’s the Panthers’ first dual win since narrowly defeating CSU Bakersfield in the opener, 21-18.
Pitt got off to another bad start for the second time this weekend at 125 pounds with the team suffering another forfeit. On Friday, L.J. Bentley suffered an injury mid-match and could not continue, forfeiting as Pitt gave up six points. Today, Pitt had no one ready at 125 pounds and that cost the team another six points.
You might wonder why Pitt wouldn’t throw a backup in there to go at 125. Earlier this year, Brendan Price was the guy who went in place of Bentley when he was injured to begin the season. But according to the Panthers’ pre-match notes, no one else, including was listed as a 125-pounder. Pitt does not appear to have had any other option ready.
Pitt had this problem with some forfeits in the past under former head coach Jason Peters with not having guys in position. I don’t know if it’s a case of a guy not making weight or just rolling the dice and having one guy at 125. But as I said when it happened under Peters, it just doesn’t make much sense to not have at least one backup. Price wasn’t good earlier this year and was 0-3 in duals but even if he lost via a major or technical fall, you still save the team a point or two. It just doesn’t get any worse than a forfeit.
Dom Forys was really impressive at 133 pounds, easily winning 12-3 to pick up a major decision. Forys, as expected, continues to look really good for Pitt as the team’s top wrestler. The good momentum continued into 141 where No. 17 Nick Zanetta prevailed, 10-8. Zanetta trailed late 6-4 and appeared headed for a defeat but he scored a takedown and then racked up four near-fall points to move ahead and win despite giving up a late reversal. Just an incredible job by Zanetta and a reminder to always go hard for every second, every period.
That put Pitt ahead in the team score, 7-6, but it didn’t last long. Troubles continued at 149 pounds as Robert Lee was beaten, 4-0. But Taleb Rahmani got the Panthers some more points with a 1-0 win, scoring an escape for the only point. His opponent chose to start neutral rather than try to escape in the third period and that didn’t work out as he was unable to register a takedown so Pitt went up 10-9 at intermission.
It was good to see Jake Wentzel back in the lineup after the break at 165 pounds. Wentzel was a late scratch on Friday, missing his bout with a skin condition. He lost his match, 4-0, though, and after Austin Bell dropped his match at 174, that put the Panthers back down again, 15-10.
Gregg Harvey kept Pitt in it at 184 and had a great match with a late takedown in the second period. He was really aggressive and even drew two stalling penalties from his opponent to get an extra point. With a riding time point, he ended up winning 6-3.
I’ve talked before about Pitt needing to get more competitive at several weights and Harvey is one of those guys that looks like he’s able to help do that. He also won on Friday and had a great showing this weekend. Pitt obviously has highly-regarded freshman Nino Bonaccorsi coming in next year and looks to be at 184 but hopefully Pitt finds a spot for Harvey somewhere. I think he’s showing some good promise.
At 197, Kellen Stout made you think he was going to get his first dual win of the year. But after a late takedown in the first period, he could get out from the bottom in the entire period in the second, giving up a lot of riding time. And after giving up a relatively quick escape in the third, that tied the bout at 2-2 and Stout would go on to lose, 4-3. The bad news is that Stout continues to lose but the good thing is that he was pretty competitive. He’s been competitive at other times, though, and at some point, you have to put it all together to actually win.
That put Pitt down 18-13 and needing a pin out of heavyweight Ryan Solomon. Ranked No. 15 going up against a wrestler that was 4-10, that seemed possible. Solomon got out to a quick start and racked up some riding time. After two stalling calls on his opponent, he was up 3-0 when this happened:
Heavyweights are often in position to give their teams victories as they’re generally the last matches of duals. Solomon seems to come through time after time but when you can get a pin when that’s the only way your team can win, that’s just extra special.
It’s been a pretty down year for the team and the program has a ways to go still. It won’t get much easier next year when three of the team’s four ranked wrestlers graduate. But it’s nice to see them pull off a big upset like this after everything that’s gone wrong from a team perspective this season.