Often, wrestling teams might have only one match over a weekend. But the Panthers had three this past weekend and passed those tests with flying colors, going undefeated. The highlight was an 18-16 upset victory over No. 8 NC State (14-2) on Sunday.
Truth be told, the No. 16 Pitt team (11-3) had been on a bit of a slide lately with three straight losses against Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina. None of the defeats were to awful programs as all three were ranked. But the Panthers were routed by Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech when it was hoped those matches would have been a little closer. And a three-point loss to the Tar Heels was disappointing in its own right, even though they’re a good program this year, too.
This weekend, though, should instill a little more confidence in the team.
Pitt opened with blowout wins against Gardner-Webb and Davidson on Saturday. That was a busy day with the Panthers defeating Gardner-Webb at 1:00 p.m. in Boiling Springs, NC, 38-4, then traveling to Davidson (about an hour and a half hour driving distance) where they won a 7:00 p.m. dual, 31-6.
Pitt rested some starters in both duals and still came away with easy wins. Neither Gardner-Webb (2-10) nor Davidson (2-9) are very good, so it was nice to get a pair of easy victories. The Panthers lost only three of 20 bouts in all and even the losses came against what were essentially backups (one was against Tommy O’Brien, the new 165-pound starter after a season-ending injury was sustained by Jake Wentzel).
And then on Sunday, the Panthers pulled off the big upset against the Wolfpack. After the first six bouts, Pitt looked beaten as they trailed 16-4 and faced three more ranked wrestlers. The lone win to that point came where you’d expect it to as No. 5 Micky Phillippi scored a major decision at 133 pounds. But then the Panthers got going and started pulling off upset after upset.
Both Gregg Harvey (174) and Kellan Stout (197) upset a pair of No. 20 NC State wrestlers in close bouts. Then No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi pulled off the shocker of the day, with a major decision over No. 3 Nick Reenan of NC State, 8-0. Those three bouts got Pitt to within 16-14 and a 17-5 major decision by No. 14 heavyweight Demetrius Thomas gave the Panthers the team win.
Victories like the NC State dual continue to show Pitt is moving in the right direction. It’s the program’s third ranked win of the year and easily the most impressive one. The team endured a tough stretch the past few weekends but again proved they are capable of more than holding their own against some of the top teams in the country.