Sporting a No. 23 ranking in USA Today’s preseason poll, the Pitt wrestling team had high expectations going into its first dual meet of the season.
The Panthers proved they deserved that ranking at the Mountaineer Duals in Morgantown, West Virginia, beating both Ohio University and Campbell University in their back-to-back Saturday matches.
“I think it was a good start,” head coach Jason Peters said in a press release after the weekend matches that left the Panthers 2-0 for the season. “We got to see some guys for the first time and some at new weights. We’ll get ready this week and maybe change some guys around. Overall I thought it was good, the warm-ups were good, the weight cut was good so those are definitely some positives from the first weekend out.”
Pitt wrestlers Jake Wentzel, TeShan Campbell and two-time NCAA qualifier Dom Forys were Pitt’s top performers, winning two matches each. Wentzel and Campbell each scored six points with pins in the Panthers’ first match against the the Ohio Bobcats.
Pitt and Ohio split the first four contests, with Forys and senior Mikey Racciato winning the 133- and 149-pound weight classes, respectively. Ohio wrestlers Shakur Laney and Noah Forrider won in the 125- and 141-pound classes, respectively, and the score was tied at six going into the 157-pound contest.
In the next two matches, Pitt started to take control and went up 18-6 after back-to-back pins by Wentzel and Campbell.
Just as it looked like the Panthers would walk to an easy victory, Ohio struck back, winning the next three matches against Christian Dietrich, Mat Carr and Zach Bruce to close the gap to two. The final contest of the night held Pitt’s definitive victory in the balance.
The deciding match was a heavyweight showdown between Pitt’s Ryan Solomon and Ohio’s Zack Parker. Solomon delivered for the Panthers, winning a 6-2 decision to clinch Pitt’s 21-16 win in its first meet of the season.
Later in the day, Pitt was up against the Campbell Camels from Buies Creek, North Carolina.
The Panthers stumbled to start the match as LJ Bentley lost the first contest in a close 5-4 decision. But they came right back, winning the next two matches, including a lopsided 17-6 major decision win by Forys.
With Pitt leading 7-3, the Camels won the next bout by a score of 10-4 and were down only one after four matches. Pitt responded yet again and stretched the lead with victories by Wentzel and Campbell.
In a 17-6 hole, the Camels had to win all three of the remaining contests in order to win the match.
Campbell won the first by a 15-5 major decision over Carr to make the score 17-10, but Bruce took a stand in the second, winning 15-5 and ending any hopes the Camels had of coming back.
Campbell’s Jere Heino won the last bout of the day against Pitt’s John Rizzo, but it was meaningless as the Panthers coasted to a 21-13 win.
The team has a week off before heading north to take on the Edinboro Fighting Scots at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12.