The No. 13 Pitt wrestling team returned to action and scored an impressive 24-9 win over No. 17 Lehigh.
I was glad to see former Pitt grappler Kellan Stout providing commentary on this one. Other former Pitt wrestlers have done that in the past and while I don’t particularly need athlete commentary, it’s great to have in a sport like wrestling where details and strategy slip by the majority of us.
125 pounds was a disaster for Pitt with redshirt freshman Colton Camacho being pinned inside of two minutes. Camacho got an early takedown but Jaret Lane, his opponent, scored a reversal and was he was pinned shortly after that, putting the Panthers down 6-0.
133 was off to a slow start as well with No. 4 Micky Phillippi giving up an early takedown, facing a 2-1 deficit heading to the second period. He had a surprisingly tough opponent that was unranked in Malyke Hines, who won three state championships in Florida. But Micky got an escape from the second and then scored a takedown of his own. After that, Hines had no answer. He was ridden the entire way for a 4-2 lead. From there, Micky played the catch/release game, scoring a few takedowns and trying to get an extra-points victory. But he didn’t quite get there and settled with a 10-5 win cutting the team lead to 6-3.
I’m not sure if it’s Micky just needing to feel his opponent out or if it’s that his opponents get worn down quickly. But Phillippi often gets off these really slow starts and then makes up for it at the end. He does it so frequently that it seems to be his strategy — trying to wear down guys and then scoring the repeated takedowns late. It’s difficult to argue with it given how successful he is. But it would also be nice to see him grab those extra points earlier if he can. Pitt trailed here 6-0 after the 125-pound clash and could have clearly used four-point or five-point win from Phillippi as opposed to the standard three-point victory. Fortunately today, they didn’t need them.
At 141 pounds, we saw No. 14 Cole Matthews facing Connor McGonagle. At the start, this was about as sleepy a match as you could get. Neither guy took many shots at all and the only points scored were the escape points, getting out from bottom to start the second and third periods. Things got a bit crazy, after that. McGonagle looked to have scored a takedown but it was not called. Matthews got an ensuring takedown shortly after and just as action tumbled out of bounds, McGonagle scored a reversal. That worked out in Matthews’ favor as he then started on bottom and scored an escape point for a late 4-3 lead and eventual win, tying the team score at 6-6.
Luke Kemerer got the start at 149 for Pitt against Jimmy Hoffman for Lehigh. Kemerer didn’t do himself any favors, giving up a quick takedown right at the end of the period with only a few seconds left and not giving himself any chance to escape. Hoffman escaped quickly in the second period and then Kemerer was ridden the entire third period for a 4-0 loss, putting Pitt behind 9-6. Kemerer could keep Pitt competitive at 149 pounds but there’s no doubt that this could be one of those problem weights for the Panthers.
Despite an ugly tech fall loss last week against Navy, we saw freshman Tyler Badgett again at 157 pounds against J.T. Cooley for Lehigh. As I mentioned, this was one of Pitt’s better recruits this past year and he’s been thrown into the fire right away as the team tries to replace long-time starter Taleb Rahmani. Badgett fared better in this one and scored a late first-period takedown for a 2-0 lead. It came with only 30 seconds left and he was able hold onto his opponent without giving up an escape point. He then did a great job on top in the second period, building up riding time and keeping Cooley down the full two minutes, again preventing an escape point. At the beginning of the third, he picked up a quick escape point and then grabbed another takedown.
With his opponent sufficiently worn, he gave up the escape and tried to get some extra points. He wasn’t successful in doing that but, with the riding time point, Badgett still scored a 6-1 victory, tying the team score at 9-9. Really nice bounceback performance from Badgett, who was overwhelmed in his bout last week at Navy. He’ll seemingly get his chance to sink or swim this year at 157 and today’s win will hopefully go a long way to helping his confidence.
At 165, fresh off of a big top ten win last week, No. 9 Jake Wentzel for Pitt faced off against a true freshman in Thayne Lawrence. As a redshirt senior, Wentzel had a big upper hand in experience. After a quick reversal in starting the period on bottom, Wentzel, as he often does, too advantage on top, riding his opponent for more than a minute and for the rest of the period. Trailing 2-0, Lawrence chose neutral at the start of the third period to avoid possibly being ridden again but Wentzel was too strong, and held on for a 3-0 win to give the Panthers a 12-9 team lead.
Pitt’s Jared McGill faced off against Jake Logan for Lehigh. McGill, like others, did a sensational job on top in this one. He scored a takedown about halfway into the first period and then held Logan down the rest of the way building up riding time. He then escaped quickly after starting out on bottom at the beginning of the second period for a 3-0 lead. He did give up a late takedown but with riding time built up, he scored a hard-fought 4-2 win, putting Pitt up 15-9.
At 184, we got another redshirt senior/true freshman matchup, with No. 18 Gregg Harvey (the Pitt senior) facing J.T. Davis. Harvey scored a big takedown late at the end of the first period and then escaped after starting on bottom at the beginning of the second period for a 3-0 lead. With Davis on bottom to start the third, Harvey continued the theme and did a great job on top, riding his opponent for more than a minute before giving up an escape and ultimately grabbing a 4-1 win for an 18-9 team lead.
Nothing spectacular from Gregg here — just a really tough victory to build the team score here and it was great to see him earn a riding point as well. Harvey’s always been one of those guys that’s a top 15-20 wrestler and now the question is if he can take a step forward and sort of force his way beyond that and turn into a top ten guy that threatens for All-American status.
At 197, we had probably the biggest bout of the dual. For Pitt, it was No. 5 Nino Bonaccorsi squaring off against No. 15 Jake Jakobsen for Lehigh. Jakobsen suffered an early knee injury and Bonaccorsi didn’t let up, scoring a late first period takedown. An ensuing escape by Jakobsen and then an escape after starting on bottom at the beginning of the second period tied things up at 2-2. But Nino picked up another takedown in the period before getting his own escape point after starting on bottom in the third. That gave him a 5-2 lead and a final takedown gave him a 7-2 win and a 21-9 team lead for the Panthers.
Finally at heavyweight, we saw Jake Slinger, the sophomore transfer from George Mason again. He faced off against Victor Lacombe for Lehigh. Slinger didn’t dominate his opponent last week and trailed before tying things up with a riding time point and sending things to overtime with the score tied at 3-3. In the extra period, Slinger scored a really nice takedown for a 5-3 win and giving Pitt the 24-9 team score.
During the broadcast, an interesting tidbit was that coach Keith Gavin apparently said that Slinger may not even have the job the entire season. Aside from redshirt junior Cole Rickert, the only other heavyweights in the lineup are freshmen. So I’m not sure if that means Rickert is battling some sort of injury and would otherwise be starting or not. But Slinger is at least making a claim to holding onto the job.
Really great effort from the team today. This was really a dual that could have gone either way — especially after Pitt was in that early 6-0 hole after being pinned at 125. But the Panthers won what could have been tossups at 157, 174, and heavyweight while taking care of business elsewhere. That was the difference, even as the Panthers were unable to grab any bonus points. If you win eight of the ten bouts in a dual, hard to argue with that.
Nothing flashy and a lot of the bouts were very close. On a different day, I think you would have seen a closer dual with Lehigh flipping a couple of the results. But the Panthers were clearly the better team in this one.
Next up, Pitt will begin its five-match ACC dual season, facing Duke next Saturday.