Whipped, crushed, trampled upon — any of those fits the description of No. 10 Pitt wrestling’s disappointing loss to No. 9 Oklahoma State tonight. The Panthers lost 30-10 in a dual that was expected to be much closer.
I’ve really missed watching wrestling this year. There haven’t been many opportunities to see the team online and I’d only seen the team once all year. With FloWrestling going to an only annual subscription option, that’s meant less and less opportunity see see duals. With so many online streaming options now, it’d be great if we could see more of these things on WatchESPN like we could before but ... I digress.
Things started out at 125 pounds here and with Louis Newell facing Oklahoma State’s No. 4 ranked Nick Piccaninni, the objective was clear. Just avoid giving up too many points. For a while that worked and Newell actually trailed only 5-4 in the second period. But one misstep later and he wound up being pinned, putting Pitt down 6-0 early. That was really disappointing just because the match had been close to that point. But Piccaninni turned a shot into two points and then quickly got the pin.
Next up was Pitt’s No. 6 ranked wrestler Micky Phillippi at 133 pounds, who was up against an unranked wrestler.. Phillippi is 15-1. Disaster struck early with Phillippi giving up a late takedown and nearly being pinned, giving up four near fall points at the buzzer. Just a really critical mistake and you didn’t have a great feeling going forward as he was down 6-0 early. But Phillippi grabbed a quick takedown in the second and then rolled his opponent over for a pin to tie the team score up 6-6.
For as bad as the Newell decision was, this one had to be even more demoralizing for Oklahoma State. For Pitt to win the team dual, they probably needed a win out of Phillippi and, for a while, it didn’t seem like they would get it.
At 141 pounds, Cole Matthews went up against another unranked wrestler. Matthews quickly got down 2-0 and really just couldn’t get anything going against a solid defensive opponent. But in losing only 7-1, he kept it to a three-point loss, which put Oklahoma State up 9-6.
At 149 pounds, Pitt had another tough one with Luke Kemerer taking on No. 3 Boo Lewallen. Like the 125-pund match, this was one where you’re just hoping to avoid giving up too many points. Kemerer has been okay this year but he quickly fell behind 6-0 with a takedown and near fall points. He ultimately lost 19-4 and gave up a technical fall as Pitt trailed 14-6.
At 157 pounds, Taleb Rahmani took on an unranked freshman. This was one of those tossups that Pitt really had probably hoped to win. There was a lot of action in the first period with a 4-4 score at the end of it. It was a back and forth match that ended 8-8 but Rahmani lost due to his opponent having just over a minute of riding time. The Panthers found themselves down 17-6 at this point and things seemed to be slipping away.
Another tough match awaited Pitt at 165 pounds. No. 11 Jake Wentzel for Pitt took on No. 9 Travis Wittlake and Wentzel found himself trailing 6-1 in the second after giving up a takedown and four near fall points. That seemed to be kind of a theme tonight for Pitt with points coming in bunches for the Cowboys. A lot of wrestlers seem to be content with a takedown and then riding their opponent for a while. Oklahoma State wrestles very aggressively and seems to be always looking for the pin and extra points. Like too many other Pitt wrestlers tonight, Wentzel just couldn’t get anything going offensively and lost 9-2 for a 20-6 Oklahoma State lead.
Fresh off his second-place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational, the newly-ranked No. 17 Gregg Harvey took on an unranked opponent for Oklahoma State. The start was more of the same for Pitt as Harvey quickly found himself on the mat and trailing 2-0. Things would get worse for Harvey, giving up four near fall points to trail 6-0 in the first period. Those were more points that came pretty late in the period and Pitt’s wrestlers have to have more self-awareness out there to try to avoid those sorts of things as time is running out. You can’t always prevent it, obviously, but it’s really deflating to turn a two-point deficit into a six-point one as time is running out. A 10-0 major decision later and Pitt trailed 24-6.
No. 7 Nino Bonaccorsi was next up for Pitt at 184 pounds and the trend of the early issues continued. Against Oklahoma State’s unranked wrestler, he quickly gave up a takedown and two near fall points, quickly trailing 4-0. But he got things turned around just a bit after a quick escape, a penalty point, and then a takedown right at the end of the period to tie things up.
Nino quickly allowed his opponent out on top to start the second period, which was kind of surprising. That put him down 5-4 quickly and he failed to score the rest of the period. Conversely, Bonaccorsi had a difficult time on bottom and was ridden the entire period, suffering a really disappointing loss.
I don’t know if Nino allowed his opponent free in the hopes of scoring some points or if he simply couldn’t hold onto him. I’d have to take another look at it. But if the strategy was the former, it definitely didn’t pay off. Obviously, Nino is a great wrestler for Pitt but his was probably the most disappointing result of the night as Pitt fell behind 27-6.
At 197 pounds, Kellen Stout took on a top 15 wrestler for Oklahoma State. Stout has really struggled this season and 197 pounds is one where Pitt really needs to get better. But he actually did what most of Pitt’s wrestlers tonight couldn’t do and that was to grab an early 2-0 lead with a takedown.
Ending the dual was the heavyweight match with No. 8 Demetrius Thomas heavily favored. But as we saw in the Bonaccorsi bout, nothing is guaranteed. Thomas got out to a quick start, though, and got a major win, 14-3, for one of the few bright spots.
Oklahoma State just came out really aggressive and got out to quick starts. Pitt didn’t have nearly enough in this one and, while you hoped it’d be closer, it’s not technically a bad loss. The final score was disappointing, though, and Pitt just got whipped in this one. What tonight proves is that Pitt still has work to do to be among the elite teams. Headed in the right direction but ... long way to go.
The difference in ranking was only a single spot but you got the feeling that these were two completely different programs. That’s not to say that the Panthers aren’t any good. Only to say that, on this night, they didn’t look anything like a top ten team. Though, admittedly, facing a great program like Oklahoma State can make that happen quite easily.