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Pitt wrestling upsets No. 14 Northern Iowa, 21-19

The big wins keep coming for Pitt this weekend.

The volleyball team won the ACC championship for the second straight year on Friday. On Saturday, the football team won the ACC’s Coastal Division title. And later in the day, the wrestling program pulled off a 21-19 shocker over No. 19 Northern Iowa. The wrestling team now sits at 2-0 and is likely to be ranked when the poll is released next week.

It was a back and forth dual all day long. The two teams swapped pins at the first two weight classes with Brendon Fenton losing his bout at 125 pounds but No. 13 Micky Phillippi pinning his opponent at 133. L.J. Bentley then dropped his bout at 141 to a top ten ranked wrestler before Robert Lee stepped in at 149 to win, tying the meet again, 9-9.

Lee at 149 pounds was a switch from last week as he got the nod in place of Dallas Bulsak, who was routed in the opener against CSU Bakersfield, 17-3. Lee was solid, winning his bout, 3-1, to tie the score.

No. 8 Taleb Rahmani, Pitt’s highest-ranked wrestler, then stepped up with a pin at 157 pounds, giving Pitt a 15-9 lead. But losses by Jake Wentzel (165) and Gregg Harvey (174) would put the Panthers behind again, 16-15. No. 16 Nino Bonaccorsi then dropped his bout to the No. 10 wrestler at the 184 weight class, putting Pitt behind 20-15. But the Panthers rebounded, getting a 6-0 win by Kellan Stout at 197 pounds and a thrilling 9-3 win at the heavyweight spot from Demetrius Thomas to take the meet, 21-19.

Now, to be fair, Pitt did get some help. Northern Iowa was missing two of their top ten ranked wrestlers at 149 pounds and at 197 pounds. Those were bouts won by Pitt and it easily could have been a different result if they were available. But this was still a very impressive showing and for a team rebuilding, Pitt seems intent on speeding up that process as much as possible. To get a win like this with such a young team is very impressive and gets Pitt off to a fantastic start.

I fully expect Pitt will be ranked next week in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They were not ranked this week but were just outside the Top 25 at No. 29. The win today should catapult Pitt into the Top 25 and, it’s likely they will stay there for at least about a month.

Pitt is off next weekend and will then next participate in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite in two weeks. That’s a tournament and won’t result in a team win/loss so that shouldn’t have too much effect on their standings. They will then be off another week before getting back to dual action on December 15 against West Virginia.

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