This weekend, the ACC Wrestling Tournament was held at The Pete here in Pittsburgh. The No. 8 Panthers made a really strong showing, finishing second behind only undefeated No. 3 NC State. Pitt came close to winning the whole thing, scoring a total of 77 points to NC State’s 81.
For Pitt, it was a tremendous rebound from last season. Last year, the Panthers finished a disappointing fourth out of six teams. While the goal is to always win a tournament, you’ve got to be pretty pleased with how Pitt did in taking second.
Leading the way was Micky Phillippi, Jake Wentzel, and Demetrius Thomas — all of whom won their weight classes and finished as ACC champions. Phillippi (133 pounds) and Thomas (heavyweight) both won ACC titles last year and their wins were not too unexpected. Wentzel winning at the 165-pound weight was certainly the surprise, though I’d argue that he’s proven he was capable of such a showing. He came in as the No. 4 seed (out of six wrestlers) and after defeating No. 5 Ben Anderson of Duke, 8-1, he dethroned top seed Kennedy Monday, 3-2 to reach the final. After that, he took down No. 3 Kevin McFadden, 3-1. Earlier this year, Monday had defeated Wentzel in the Pitt-UNC dual so it was great to see Wentzel get a bit of revenge here.
Others also had very good showings. Taleb Rahmani took second as he also reached the finals at 157 pounds. He was majored in an ugly loss to Hayden Hidlay, 13-4, but a win there looked nearly impossible. Rahmani is a guy that scrambles quite a bit and can often pull out an unexpected result, getting a guy in a bad position for a pin. Because of that, you never really rule him out of anything. But Hidlay is just an elite grappler. Still, to take second, including a win over No. 2 seed A.C. Headlee, Rahmani really did well. Cole Matthews (141 pounds), Gregg Harvey (174 pounds), Nino Bonaccorsi (184 pounds), and Kellen Stout (197 pounds) also finished in third place. The Panthers finished no worst than third place in eight of the ten weights and are, as fans wanted to see, really more competitive up and down the entire lineup.
With four teams all ranked in the nation’s top ten, the Panthers are in one of the nation’s top conferences. The ACC is a very clear second to the Big Ten and taking second in such a conference is a really nice showing. The ACC titles will hopefully come under head coach Keith Gavin and this weekend’s outcome was a good one for the Panthers’ top ten program.
I was just really pleased by the efforts and Pitt came well prepared. Still, everything didn’t break their way. Harvey was the No. 1 guy at 174 pounds and failed to reach the final. And it would have been great to see Nino Bonaccorsi at 184 pounds get into the finals. But Harvey at least rebounded for a third-place finish and, in the case of Bonaccorsi, his weight is just so tough in the ACC. Three of the top five 184-pounders in the country are in the ACC, including Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) and Trent Hidlay (NC State), who are both ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Bonaccorsi is right there, though, and he actually beat the No. 1 Bolen earlier this year.
Next up is the NCAA Tournament, obviously. In addition to the four finalists, Cole Matthews (141), Gregg Harvey (174), and Nino Bonaccorsi all are guaranteed locks, receiving at large selections. For now, on the outside looking in are Louis Newell at 125 pounds, Dallas Bulsak at 149 pounds, and Kellan Stout at 197 pounds. Stout actually finished third, which would be enough at some weights to get an automatic bid. But with only one of those at 197 pounds for the ACC, he didn’t get it. The hope is that Pitt can produce a strong showing there just as they did at ACCs.