If you haven’t been paying attention, the Pitt wrestling team has gotten off to a fast start.
The Panthers are currently ranked No. 10 in the nation and are 4-1 on the year. The team’s lone loss was a 23-12 defeat to No. 3 Ohio State and Pitt upset No. 7 Lehigh earlier, 19-18, in addition to defeating West Virginia, Campbell, and Drexel. That Drexel win was the most recent one as the Panthers pounded them, 33-0, winning every bout.
Pitt has done it with a pretty strong lineup from top to bottom. How strong? Six of the Panthers’ ten starters are ranked in the Top 20 and five of those six are in the top ten in at least one poll.
Most would have expected the Panthers to have at least four ranked wrestlers as Micky Phillippi (133 pounds), Taleb Rahmani (157), Nino Bonaccorsi (184), and Demetrius Thomas (Heavyweight) all returned and were ranked last year. But the team has also gotten some surprisingly pleasant starts elsewhere, too.
Jake Wentzel is ranked as high as No. 10 at 165 pounds and is a perfect 7-0 on the season. And at 141 pounds, the Panthers have freshman Cole Matthews, who is 5-2 and finds himself as high as No. 15 in the polls.
Pitt certainly has work to do in other weight classes. But with more than half of the starting lineup ranked, you’re starting to see a really good program come together under head coach Keith Gavin. The Panthers have always had a few guys crack the Top 20. But with six ranked so highly this year, they have the potential to do some real damage in the postseason and challenge for an ACC title.
Winning the ACC won’t be easy with No. 5 Virginia Tech and No. 6 NC State both present. Even beyond that, both North Carolina (No. 17) and Virginia (No. 23) are also ranked, giving the conference five ranked programs out of only six squads. But the Panthers can make some serious noise and really contend there this year.
The hope is that Pitt can string together a few top ten seasons together and really get some momentum going. And considering that this is such a young team with half of the lineup comprised of underclassmen starters, that’s quite possible.
Next up for Pitt is a road match against Maryland on December 20.