Pitt’s wrestling program didn’t finish the Southern Scuffle with a champion but they did manage a fourth place finish in the prestigious New Year’s event. That is the best finish for the program in its history.
The event annually draws some of the best programs and it’s a great place for competition. Tenth-ranked Pitt was bested only by No. 9 Oklahoma State (champion), No. 6 NC State, and No. 25 Stanford.
The Panthers’ best finish was runner-up as 174-pounder Gregg Harvey went all the way to the finals before losing in the championship. The event was nearly a lot more memorable for Pitt as three others lost in the semifinals — in Micky Phillippi, Nino Bonaccorsi, and Demetrius Thomas. All three finished in third place but Phillippi and Thomas, in particular, were the top overall seeds in their weight classes (133 pounds and heavyweight, respectively). Taking third in an event like this is a strong finish but you could argue it was somewhat of a disappointment that neither reached the final.
Jake Wentzel was the other Panther to place, finishing sixth.
As I mentioned, if you’re Pitt, you probably would have liked to get at least one other guy to the finals here and, with two No. 1 seeds, see someone win a title. But this event is also full of great wrestlers and the overall fourth-place finish isn’t bad. Plus, to see Harvey take a step forward was encouraging. Few would have imagined he would have gotten to the finals.
It shows the program is competitive in many weights across the board and that’s exactly what you need to finish with a high team score at the NCAA championships and really be competitive against the top schools. And, as I’ve pointed out before, the outlook for the program continues to look fantastic. Of the five guys that placed, only Thomas is a senior with all others slated to be around for at least one more year.
The wrestling team will now break until January 18 when they take on the aforementioned Oklahoma State team in a road dual.