After a successful opening round at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, all four of Pitt’s competitors dropped out of contention for first-place titles by the end of the second session Thursday night.
Junior 133-pounder Dom Forys, sophomore 165-pounder TeShan Campbell and redshirt junior heavyweight Ryan Solomon each picked up wins Thursday morning to advance to the second round. But later in the day, all three were eliminated, and redshirt freshman 157-pounder Taleb Rahmani lost his first-round match Thursday morning.
Although none of them are eligible to win national championships, all four will have the opportunity to achieve All-American status through the consolation bracket. The top eight finishers in each weight class become All-Americans, and the Pitt wrestlers can still finish as high as third place.
Forys, the No. 6 seed at 133 pounds, started the day for the Panthers against unseeded Corey Keener of Central Michigan. He tallied a pair of takedowns late in the first and second periods to take a 5-0 lead, then scored a pair of takedowns in the third to cap off a 10-2 major decision victory.
Sixteen wrestlers made it to the second round, with Forys among them. He met No. 11 seed Bryan Lantry of Buffalo in a hotly contested battle that came down to the final seconds.
Lantry took an early lead with a takedown late in the first period and led 2-0 going into the second. Forys escaped then took Lantry down late in the second, making the score 3-2 in Forys favor going into the final period. But Lantry escaped with a minute left to tie the score, then pulled off a takedown with time running out to win a 5-3 decision and knock Forys out of title contention.
In his first career NCAA Tournament match, Rahmani couldn’t overcome a large early deficit against No. 7 seed Dylan Palacio from Cornell.
Palacio, an All-American in 2016, showed the advantage of his experience early on. The senior picked up a takedown in the first period, then added a reversal and four-point nearfall in the second to take a commanding 8-0 lead. Rahmani escaped and threw Palacio onto his back at the end of the third period, but time expired and he dropped a 9-1 major decision.
Rahmani won his first consolation match later Thursday night against Virginia’s Andrew Atkinson, and there was no shortage of action between the two 157-pounders.
After a quick takedown by Rahmani, Atkinson escaped and took Rahmani down for a 3-2 lead. Rahmani scored a reversal, but Atkinson escaped again to tie the score at four. Rahmani then added one more takedown before the end of the period to go up 6-4.
Atkinson reversed Rahmani to start the second period, tying the match again at six. But Rahmani immediately reversed him and put him on his back for a four-point nearfall to take a 12-6 lead. Atkinson would escape, but Rahmani took him down to his back again for another nearfall, giving him a comfortable 18-7 lead entering the final period.
Neither wrestler scored in the third, and Rahmani won by 18-7 major decision to keep his hopes alive into Friday.
At 165 pounds, the No. 10 seed Campbell matched up with unseeded Yoanse Mejias of Oklahoma. After a scoreless first period, Campbell grabbed the lead in the second period with an escape and a takedown, then held Mejias off the rest of the way for a 4-0 decision victory.
Campbell’s second-round matchup came against Arizona State’s No. 7 seed Anthony Valencia, a redshirt freshman who many considered the top prospect in the country for the 2015 class.
Valencia started the scoring with a first-period takedown, but Campbell escaped to make it 2-1. Campbell started the second period on bottom and escaped to his feet, tying the score at two entering the third.
Knowing an escape would give Valencia the lead back, Campbell tried to tilt him to his back to score nearfall points. But Valencia fought him off and got to his feet, then took Campbell down to his back for four nearfall points of his own. Valencia held on to win, 9-2.
In Pitt’s final opening-round match, No. 15 heavyweight Solomon faced unseeded Ross Larson of Oklahoma.
The two heavyweights battled to a scoreless first period, then Solomon escaped to take a 1-0 lead in the second period before adding a takedown to make it 3-0. Larson escaped in the third, but Solomon added one point for riding time to take the 4-1 decision and advance to the second round.
In the second round, Solomon faced No. 2 seed Connor Medbery of Wisconsin, who entered the match with a 26-1 overall record.
After another scoreless first period, Medbery started the second period on bottom and escaped, taking a 1-0 lead into the third. Medbery started off the final period by turning Solomon to his back for two nearfall points. Pitt’s coaches challenged the call, but the ruling stood, and Medbery held Solomon down the rest of the way for a 5-0 victory.
All four Panthers will resume action in their respective consolation brackets Friday morning as they attempt to wrestle their way back into the top eight to become All-Americans.