After successful high school wrestling careers, Pittsburgh natives Dom Forys and TeShan Campbell are on the cusp of greatness at the next level.
Both Forys and Campbell sit inside the top 15 of the latest InterMat NCAA rankings — Forys is ranked No. 7 at 133 pounds, while Campbell slides in at No. 13 at 165. The rankings won’t mean much at the end of the season, as it’s the performances that will count. But they do highlight the respect both are earning in the wrestling community.
Coming off a PIAA championship as a senior at Penn Hills High School in 2015 — which he won while hobbled by a sprained MCL — Campbell competed at 174 pounds for Pitt as a true freshman. He didn’t have to worry about cutting weight, but he matched up against mostly larger and more experienced opponents who walked around well above the 174-pound limit.
Campbell still found success at 174, posting a 17-8 record in the regular season. He didn’t win a match at the NCAA Tournament, but showed plenty of potential in a hard-fought 3-2 defeat versus No. 10 Mike Ottinger of Central Michigan. He also held a late lead before falling 10-7 to South Dakota State’s David Kocer in the consolation bracket.
Now competing at his more natural weight of 165 pounds, Campbell is noticeably leaner and able to use his trademark quickness to an even greater advantage.
“Last year I gave up a few pounds, I didn’t cut anything for that weight class,” Campbell said. “Now I’m cutting about eight pounds, 10 pounds … I’m getting used to it now. I think I’ll be ready for March.”
Campbell began his sophomore season unranked, but that quickly changed when he pinned No. 19 Austin Reese of Ohio in the Panthers’ first match of the season. As a result, he appeared at No. 19 in InterMat’s next rankings release. Campbell then defeated No. 11 Austin Matthews of Edinboro, 9-6, in Pitt’s next match, prompting his rise to No. 13.
He entered Pitt’s Dec. 4 matchup in Stillwater, Oklahoma, against the No. 1 Oklahoma State Cowboys with a perfect 4-0 record in dual-meet competition, but lost a 10-6 decision to Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers — the No. 4 165-pounder in the nation.
Pitt head coach Jason Peters, though, believes Campbell’s perfect record might still be intact if the match had taken place elsewhere.
“TeShan had [Rogers] on his back. If it’s in Fitzgerald Field House, they’re calling pin,” Peters said. “But you don’t get any calls in Stillwater, you know? We weren’t looking for any favors. You’ve got to stick him two times, or maybe three.”
Forys also enjoyed a decorated high school career, compiling a school-record 151 wins at western Pennsylvania powerhouse North Allegheny High School. But he never achieved his ultimate goal of winning a PIAA championship, something that drives him to reach that pinnacle at Pitt.
As a sophomore, Forys went 24-2 in the regular season and fell one win short of cracking the top eight and earning All-American status at the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This year, he’s looking beyond just becoming an All-American — his goal is to be on top of the podium in March.
“I’m aiming to be a national champion, and if I fall short, I’ll still be an All-American,” Forys said. “I just really have to believe that, I really have to put that out there and think that every day. And I’ve been doing that.”
Forys’s quest got off to a great start, as he won his first seven matches to start the season — including two over ranked opponents. He then ran into Oklahoma State’s heralded first year, No. 6 Kaid Brock, and dropped a 10-3 decision.
“I really believe I have the chance to pull that match out against anybody in the country,” Forys said. “He threw me to my back in the first period, and once a guy gets up on you five points, he can kind of just coast to victory.”
Despite losing his undefeated record, Forys said he’s much happier to take the loss now than taking it at the NCAA Tournament in March.
“I’m really not worried about taking this loss,” Forys said. “I’d rather be a national champion with five losses on the year than go undefeated the whole year and lose at nationals and not place … I’m just going to use that as a learning experience.”
Peters said battling against the best wrestlers in the country is more important than compiling wins and losses.
“That’s why we do it. We’ve wrestled great competition,” Peters said. “We could hide these guys and get great records, or we could go out and see what it feels like to get punched in the mouth. And that’s what we did, and it was fun, actually.”