Backyard Maul: Pitt wrestling dominates WVU 29-6

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Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Redshirt sophomore Micky Phillippi improved to 8-0 on the year during Pitt’s 29-6 victory over West Virginia.

By Jack Clay, Staff Writer

So much for a rivalry match.

The No. 10 Pitt wrestling team entered the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia, Thursday night ready to face off against the Mountaineers in the much-anticipated Backyard Brawl. Coming off a thrilling upset over No. 7 Lehigh on the road, the Panthers continued their hot streak in dominant fashion, steamrolling the Mountaineers 29-6.

To start off the action for the Panthers, redshirt first-year Louis Newell wrestled redshirt sophomore Joey Thomas in the 125-pound weight class. Newell thoroughly dominated the matchup, picking up two takedowns, four near fall points and over four minutes of riding time. 

It wasn’t the most exciting match but Newell set the tone for the meet, winning 11-1.

Next up was Pitt’s highest ranked wrestler, No. 4 redshirt sophomore Micky Phillippi, who faced fellow sophomore Lucas Seibert. West Virginia didn’t fare much better in this one as Phillippi scored without much difficulty. He racked up over twenty points in a tech fall victory, giving the Panthers a firm 9-0 lead.

No. 16 redshirt first-year Cole Matthews followed Phillippi in the 141-pound match against sophomore Caleb Rea. In Pitt’s last meet against Lehigh, Matthews lost a heartbreaker to senior Ryan Pomrinca, but he shook off that loss and looked strong from the beginning in this one. His match was closer than the two preceding it, but the result was never in doubt as Matthews won 4-0, riding his opponent for what seemed like the entire match.

In the 149-pound match, Pitt redshirt first-year Luke Kemerer took on first-year Liam Lusher. Kemerer looked solid from the start as well, entering the final period with a six-point lead. But Lusher wasn’t done and after two quick takedowns cut the lead to three with 30 seconds remaining. However, Kemerer dug deep and hung on for the 11-9 victory.

Next for the Panthers was No. 12 redshirt senior Taleb Rahmani who wrestled redshirt first-year Alex Hornfeck in the meet’s most exciting match of the night. The two went back and forth trading points and entered the third period tied 5-5. The deciding factor proved to be a late reversal from Rahmani with thirty seconds remaining, giving him the 7-6 win.

The 165-pound weight class pitted Pitt’s No. 11 redshirt junior Jake Wentzel against redshirt first-year Brock Godzin. Wentzel looked dominant as he was on top of Godzin for nearly the entire match. He did most of his damage with two swift takedowns and what looked to be a very painful armbar, taking the match easily by a score of 11-0 and remaining undefeated on the year.

Redshirt junior Gregg Harvey took on first-year Scott Joll in the 174-pound matchup. Fitting with the theme of the meet, Harvey had this match locked up from the beginning. He recorded two takedowns and over a minute and a half of riding time to a 6-2 victory. The win gave Pitt a commanding 25-0 lead.

Next up was No. 13 redshirt sophomore Nino Bonaccorsi wrestling against sophomore Jackson Moomau in the 184-pound weight class. Not to be outdone by his teammates, Bonaccorsi jumped out to an early lead without much resistance from Moomau. He entered the third period leading 12-2 with over two minutes of riding time and secured the major victory 13-3 in the Panthers’ last win of the day.

In the 197-pound match, No. 23 redshirt senior Kellan Stout took on No. 11 redshirt sophomore Noah Adams. This was one of the closer matches of the event, and the score was tied at 4-4 with about 90 seconds remaining. Pitt head coach Keith Gavin challenged a late takedown from Adams, stating there was no clear control. But the call stood, and the Panthers suffered their first loss of the night with Stout falling 8-6.

The night’s final matchup saw Pitt resting its usual starter at the heavyweight class, No. 8 senior Demetrius Thomas, for junior Cole Rickert, who wrestled against senior Brandon Ngati. Rickert found himself a bit outmatched and trailed 4-1 entering the third. Things went even further downhill from there, and Rickert dropped the match 11-3.

Though the meet ended on a bit of a sour note for the Panthers, they strolled out of WVU Coliseum with a dominant victory that saw their wrestlers pick up eight wins, three of them as major decisions and one more as a technical fall. 

Thursday’s match marked another in a string of strong performances from the Panthers. So far this season they’ve blown out two lesser teams, pulled out a clutch win against higher-ranked Lehigh and took a respectable loss to a top-tier squad in Ohio State. There’s reason for optimism around the program as Pitt’s wrestlers continue their road to the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers will look to continue their hot streak on Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia for a match against the Drexel Dragons.

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