The No. 24 Pitt wrestling team continued its strong start to the year with a convincing 37-3 victory over West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl on Saturday night.
The Panthers (3-0), as indicated by that final score, had little trouble. Robert Lee at 149 pounds was the sole wrestler to lose as he fell 4-0. Everywhere else, though, it was all Pitt.
Pitt was helped by two forfeits by West Virginia at 125 pounds and 141 pounds as the Mountaineers had two guys apparently not make weight or be ready to compete. For once it was nice to see Pitt be the beneficiary of that. It always seems like it’s the Panthers who had to forfeit matches in the past and getting 12 points that way all but ensured a Pitt win Saturday.
A few highlights included a technical fall by Micky Phillippi at 133 pounds. Phillippi is all the way up to No. 6 in the rankings and is currently the highest-ranked guy on the team. Pitt lost Dom Forys to graduation last year at 133 pounds and even though Forys was a top ten guy himself, the team hasn’t really lost a beat there. At least not yet. Phillippi could prove to be even better than Forys and the best news is that he is only a redshirt freshman, meaning Pitt should have him for three more years after this one.
Another redshirt freshman, Nino Bonaccorsi, completely dominated his unranked opponent, winning 16-1. He wrapped up his match very quickly and Nino is up to No. 12 in the rankings himself.
The Panthers otherwise won mostly close matches. No. 10 Taleb Rahmani held on for a 3-1 win at 157 pounds while No. 13 ranked heavyweight transfer Demetrius Thomas won 6-4. Others in the win column with close victories were Jake Wentzel (165 pounds), Gregg Harvey (174 pounds), and Kellen Stout (197 pounds). Wentzel, in particular, is a guy that looks like he could take the next step this year.
While I’m glad all of the ranked guys pulled out wins, it was also nice to see some of the others that are more question marks for Pitt come out on top. Those last three I mentioned are going to be critical to the team’s success this year in duals and while you’re not always going to get all three wins from them, anyone would settle for two out of three any day of the week.
Pitt will be competitive when the ranked guys show up and win. But if they get even modest contributions from guys like Wentzel, Harvey, and Stout, they will be very difficult to beat.
Next up is Bucknell at home at 2:00 p.m. today.