Wrestling: Panthers win second-straight Eastern Wrestling League tournament

Dustin Gabler | March 6, 2012    

The Pitt wrestling team captured the Eastern Wrestling League tournament title on Sunday for the… The Pitt wrestling team captured the Eastern Wrestling League tournament title on Sunday for the second straight year.

The Panthers clinched the 135.5-11.5 victory over Edinboro following the 174-pound weight class.

Six Panthers earned automatic bids to the NCAA tournament that will be held in St. Louis starting March 15.

125 Pounds

In the lowest weight class, No. 15 Anthony Zanetta, a junior, earned the top seed with his perfect record in EWL duals.

With a first-round bye and a major decision, 10-2, over Lock Haven’s Bobby Rehm, Zanetta advanced to the finals for the third straight year. The top-two wrestlers from the EWL earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, so Zanetta became Pitt’s first qualifier.

Zanetta matched up with West Virginia’s Shane Young in the finals. The two met in the past two seasons’ EWL finals with Zanetta taking both previous matches.

Zanetta also defeated Young 2-0 when the two teams met for their dual match in early February.

“That was the sixth time I wrestled him in three years,” Zanetta said. “I had an idea of what the match had in store for me.”

The Pitt junior wrestled a cautious first period and remained scoreless after holding off several good shots from the Mountaineers’ Young.

“In the EWL finals it’s easy to be cautious through the first period because your nerves get to you,” Zanetta said. “Nobody wants to make a mistake at first.”

Zanetta escaped early in the second period but allowed a take down on the edge of the mat to Young. The WVU wrestler held on the remainder of the second period to keep his 2-1 lead over the top-seeded Zanetta.

Young chose to wrestle neutral in the third period, and the Panthers’ 125-pound wrestler needed to make a move if he wanted his third-straight EWL championship.

“I just had to let it rip and go get a takedown,” Zanetta said. “I just tried to stay calm. I felt confident that I could get a takedown. I just kept a positive attitude, and that gave me the extra push to take the lead.”

Zanetta’s third period takedown brought the lead to 3-2 and the Pitt junior held on to Young for the decision and earned the victory in the first weight class.

133 Pounds

Pitt sophomore No. 19 Shelton Mack took third place at the EWL tournament in his freshman year and failed to advance to the NCAAs. In his second season with the Panthers, the 133-pounder wasn’t going to be left off the trip to nationals.

Mack earned the top-seed in the tournament on the back of his late season victory over Edinboro’s No. 11 A.J. Schopp.

The sophomore cruised to a 12-1 major decision over Jon Childress of Lock Haven and won a tight match, 5-4, over Bloomsburg’s Nick Wilcox.

Mack’s victory over Wilcox sent him to the finals and locked up one of three automatic bids for the NCAA tournament.

In the finals, Mack met Schopp for the third time this season. Mack fell to the Edinboro wrestler 1-0 early in the season and avenged that loss in the dual match with a 5-2 decision.

Mack recorded an early takedown, but couldn’t hold on to Schopp. Still, Mack held a 2-1 advantage at the end of the first period.

The Pitt sophomore started down in the second period and escaped within 10 seconds to bring the score to 3-1.

In the third period, Schopp selected to start down. The Edinboro wrestler was able to escape from Mack early in the period.

Mack was hit with a stalling call late in the third period to knot the match at 3-3 and the two headed into sudden victory overtime.

The sophomore was close to his first EWL title when he was near earning a takedown on the edge of the mat. Schopp scrambled out of bounds and the two returned to the center of the mat.

Mack was unable to escape in his first tiebreaker which kept the score at 3-3 with Schopp starting down. Schopp escaped early in the tiebreaker and was able to avoid a late single leg takedown by Mack to earn the win.

Despite the loss, Mack will advance to his first NCAA tournament despite the loss.

141 Pounds

Freshman Travis Shaffer dominated with a 15-0 tech fall over Clarion’s Tyler Bedelyon. Shaffer fell in his second-round matchup to the top-seeded Mike Morales of West Virginia.

He earned a second 15-0 tech fall over Matt Hicks of Bloomsburg in the consolation semifinals, advancing him for a repeat match against Bedelyon for third place.

Shaffer surrendered an early takedown to Bedelyon and fell down 2-0 early on, but the Pitt freshman reversed that takedown to bring the score to 2-2.

After choosing down in the third period, Bedelyon let Shaffer up. Shaffer recorded a quick takedown for a 5-2 lead.

Working on top, Shaffer picked up the pin over the Clarion 141-pound wrestler at 6:17 for a third place finish in his first EWL tournament appearance.

149 Pounds

Pitt senior No. 10 Tyler Nauman headed to Clarion with one goal in mind – to become Pitt’s first ever four-time EWL champion.

The number-one seeded Nauman took down his first opponent, Steve Miller of Millersville, with a pin at 5:19. A 9-3 decision over Bloomsburg’s Bryce Busler advanced the Pitt senior to his fourth EWL final.

Nauman paired up with Edinboro’s No. 11 David Habat — the wrestlers’ fourth meeting this season. Nauman defeated Habat twice, 6-5 and 7-5, and Habat picked up one win over the Pitt senior, 5-2.

After wrestling to a 0-0 tie in the first period, Habat started on bottom in the second.

“We would like to crush everyone from the start, but at this level, everyone is good and anyone can win any match,” Nauman said. “A lot of winning right now comes down to wrestling smart. I feel wrestling smart might be why we wrestled a lot of the first periods scoreless.”

Nauman allowed him to escape early on giving the Edinboro wrestler the 1-0 lead.

The Pitt senior caught Habat making a mistake and picked up the takedown for the 2-1 lead. Habat was able to escape bringing the score back to a tie at 2-2.

Nauman escaped with Habat on top in the third period, giving him the lead 3-2.

The final score was 3-2 as Nauman held off Habat’s takedown attempts and earned his place in Pitt history as the first four-time EWL champion for the Panthers.

“Being the only person from Pitt to become a four-time EWL champions is a wonderful feeling,” Nauman said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

157 Pounds

Third-seeded Donnie Tasser’s 157-pound weight class only sent two wrestlers from the EWL on to national, meaning Tasser needed to advance to the finals for an automatic bid.

The EWL fielded two top-10 seeds with Hickman and Clarion’s No. 4 James Fleming. Following his 10-2 major decision over West Virginia’s Dominic Prezzia, thrd-seeded Tasser met the top-seeded Fleming.

The junior fell in a major decision, 14-2, to the host school’s Fleming. Tasser battled in a tough consolation match against Lock Haven’s Aaron Fry, the fourth-seeded wrestler, for a 7-5 decision.

In the third-place match, Tasser wresteled Casey Fuller of Edinboro. The Pitt 157-pounder met Fuller in the two squads’ dual match this season with Tasserr getting a 6-0 decision.

Tasser wrestled another scoreless first period for the Panthers and began scoring in the second period. After escaping, he picked up a quick takedown to bring the score to 3-0.

After allowing an escape, the junior scored another takedown bringing the score to 5-1. Both wrestlers added an escape, and the match ended in a 6-2 victory for Tasser.

With his third-place finish, Tasser will look for an at-large bid for the second consecutive year to advance to the national tournament.

165 Pounds

With only one automatic bid available, freshman Tyler Wilps needed a EWL championship for the automatic NCAA bid.

With the second seed, Wilps cruised through Lock Haven’s Dylan Caprio with a pin at 6:44 and a tech fall over Edinboro’s Jesse Swink 21-6.

Clarion’s No. 5 Bekzod Abdurakhmonov loomed in the finals.

The fifth-ranked wrestler scored an early takedown while tugging Wilps back in to the mat for the quick two points. The Pitt freshman was able to escape for the point.

Abdurakhmonov recorded another takedown on Wilps bringing the score to 4-1 entering the second period with the Clarion wrestler on bottom.

The home wrestler recorded an escape, two more takedowns and the riding time point to pick up the 10-3 victory.

Wilps, with his second place finish, will lookfor an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

174 Pounds

Top-seeded senior Ethan Headlee recorded two falls to advance to the finals of the tournament. Headlee pinned Clarion’s Nick Milano in 2:11 and Lock Haven’s Seth Creasy in 1:18.

Three allocations were awarded to the EWL for the 174-pound weight class. Headlee’s trip to the finals earned him his fourth trip to the national tournament.

With the automatic bid locked up, Headlee focused on No. 19 Mike Dessino of Bloomsburg and his shot at a second EWL championship. Headlee defeated Dessino 4-1 when the two squads met during the season.

Another Panthers’ wrestler started slow in his final match as Headlee didn’t even appear close to recording a score on Dessino in the first period.

Dessino was close to recording a takedown of the top-seeded Headlee before the referee whistled it dead for being potentially dangerous.

Headlee escaped in the second period earning the first point of the match. The Pitt senior brought Dessino to the mat with a single-leg takedown but couldn’t record the full takedown and get the two points.

In his final EWL tournament, the Panthers’ 174-pounder rode out the entire third period picking up the 2-0 victory after he earned the riding time point.

On top of his second EWL championship and a fourth ticket to the NCAA tournament, Headlee’s victory clinched the team title for Pitt.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Panthers won both the EWL regular season and tournament title.

184 Pounds

Senior Andy Vaughan entered the tournament as the second seed. With three bids on the line, he looked in good contention to earn a trip to St. Louis.

Vaughan won a 7-4 decision over Bloomsburg’s Sam Shirey before falling by the same score to Vic Avery of Edinboro.

In his consolation match, Vaughan fell 6-4 to Zach Heffner of Lock Haven.

The senior met Steve Cressley of the host Clarion in the fifth-place match.

After a scoreless first period, Vaughan started on top in the second period against Cressley. In dominating fashion, he held to the Clarion 184-pounder the entire period and earned a huge advantage in riding time.

Vaughan, in dominating fashion, picked up a 5-1 victory to finish fifth.

Despite his fifth-place victory, Vaughan put himself in a tough position for the NCAA tournament. He will join the list of Panthers awaiting their fate searching for an at-large bid to nationals in St. Louis.

197 Pounds

Pitt’s highest nationally ranked wrestler, junior No. 4 Matt Wilps, was on a collision course with Edinboro’s No. 2 Chris Honeycutt all tournament.

Wilps recorded a major decision over Matt Parlier from Lock Haven 14-5. He almost tripped up against Bloomsburg’s Richard Perry but held on to win 4-3 in overtime setting himself up for a third chance at Honeycutt.

Honeycutt defeated the Panthers’ highest-ranked wrestler in the two earlier meetings by scores of 7-2 and 11-5.

Wilps scored a huge first period takedown as Honeycutt shot in on the Panthers’ 197-pound wrestler. The Pitt junior held on to earn some riding time but eventually allowed the escape to the second-ranked Honeycutt.

Honeycutt connected on a big double-leg off the edge of the mat, but he couldn’t finish it off for the two points as time expired in the first period.

Wilps snuck away from Edinboro’s top-seeded wrestler early in the period giving him a 3-1 lead. Honeycutt countered with his own escape in the third period to bring the score back within a point.

With just over a minute remaining Wilps brought Honeycutt down for another takedown to give him the 5-2 lead. The fourth-ranked Panther held on top of the Edinboro wrestler for the remainder of the match and earned the riding time point for the 6-2 victory.

With his victory, Wilps heads on to his second NCAA tournament and will be looking to achieve All-American status in St. Louis.

“This win is a huge confidence booster for nationals,” Wilps said.

His dominating performance against the highest-ranked EWL wrestler in any weight class was enough for the coaches to name him the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

285 Pounds

Looking to pick up some team points, Pitt head coach Rande Stottlemyer made the call to give sophomore P.J. Tasser the Pitt entry at heavyweight over 285-pound freshman Joel Yahner.

Tasser, who weighed in at 188 pounds before the tournament, wrestled up a weight class late in the duals’ season and took down No. 9 Ben Clymer of Hofstra.

Often giving up 60 pounds to his opponents, Tasser made a run through the consolation rounds that earned Pitt another national qualifier.

“My mindset going into the tournament was just to have fun and try to win some matches,” Tasser said.

Tasser lost a close 1-0 decision to the second-seeded Ernest James of Edinboro, but the sophomore still had a chance to make some noise in the consolation rounds.

He took down Cleveland State’s Garry Yarborogh 4-3 and Bloomsburg’s Zac Walsh 3-1 in sudden victory to advance to the third-place match.

“Running through consolations was crazy,” Tasser said. “I just took it one match at a time and kept going after it.”

In the battle for third place and the final EWL heavyweight allocation, Tasser squared off against fourth-ranked Quintas McCorkle of the host Clarion.

Tasser picked up a point with his second period escape almost instantly after the referee’s whistle, but McCorkle was also able to escape almost immediately when starting on the bottom in the third period.

Pitt fans and even most of Tasser’s teammates crowded the stands in the corner as the last match of the tournament was going on. With his teammates shouting advice, Tasser almost recorded his match-winning takedown in sudden victory.

“We want all our teammates to win every match so we get into all the matches,” Nauman said.

With both coaching staffs clamoring for the two points from the referees, the two wrestlers reset in the middle of the mat.

“The atmosphere was nuts,” Tasser said. “We were both going at it back and forth with about 30 seconds left in overtime. I thought I had the takedown, but the ref called us out of bounds.”

Tasser connected on McCorkle for his takedown and third place victory with three seconds remaining in sudden victory.

“I just went back to the starting line and got in on another shot,” Tasser said. “I finished the takedown and got the win.”

The Pitt sophomore raced to the center of the mat to cheers from the Pitt fans. His third place finish sends him to the NCAA tournament as the third heavyweight qualifier from the EWL.

“Getting the win and qualifying for NCAAs at heavyweight, with all of the Pitt fans there cheering, is a feeling I’ll never forget,” Tasser said. “We have unfinished business to do out in St. Louis.”

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