Pitt wrestling opens 2021 season with Blue and Gold Meet

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Hannah Wilson | Staff Photographer

Pitt wrestlers at the Blue and Gold exhibition dual meet at the Fitzgerald Field House on Thursday night.

By Brian Sherry, For The Pitt News

Coming off its best finish at the NCAA National Championship since 1970, Pitt wrestling kicked off its 2021-22 campaign with the Blue and Gold exhibition dual meet Thursday night at the Fitzgerald Field House. The dual pitted teammate against teammate ahead of the Panthers’ regular season opener next Sunday at the Clarion Open. 

Redshirt sophomore Colton Camacho commenced the action on Thursday night with a 6-1 victory over redshirt sophomore Gage Curry at 125 pounds. Camacho, who posted a 13-5 record last season, comes into this year with lofty goals. 

“Ultimately, I want to be an All-American this year, but to do that I need to make it to the national tournament this year,” Camacho said. “I feel like, once I get there, I can do some damage.”

Redshirt senior Jake Wentzel posted the only pin of the night over first year Collin McCorkle at 165 pounds. Wentzel took the lead early with a thunderous takedown over his opponent. This match marks Wentzel’s first return to the Fitzgerald Field House since his second place finish at the NCAA national tournament last season. The redshirt senior expressed high hopes for his team in his final season with the Panthers. 

“It would be cool to compete for an ACC title,” Wentzel said. “I think we also have the guys to come away with an NCAA tournament team trophy.” 

Wentzel also said he’s raised his own personal goals for the season, after a narrow loss in the national tournament made for a sour ending to his 2021 season.

“Obviously, I want to do better than last year because that was a tough pill to swallow, being second place,” Wentzel said. “So I want to go out and win this year.” 

At 157 pounds, redshirt senior Elijah Cleary turned heads with a dominant victory over sophomore Tyler Badgett. Cleary racked up several takedowns to defeat his opponent 11-5. The match marks Cleary’s first appearance for the Panthers after transferring to Pitt from Ohio State this season.

The meet also featured two exciting overtime matches. At 174 pounds, first year Luca Augustine grappled his way to a sudden victory over redshirt junior Hunter Kernan. Neither wrestler could gain the upper hand before regulation expired, but Augustine overpowered Kernan in overtime to take home the victory.

At 197 pounds, first year Ethan Finch edged out redshirt first year Geoff Magin in overtime in the final match of the night. Each wrestler fought to score points in regulation and Finch ultimately won the match 6-4. 

Head coach Keith Gavin said his team performed well Thursday night. But the fifth-year head coach will continue to look for ways to improve. 

“Up and down the lineup, we saw several guys do things well,” Gavin said. “But I also saw a few things we need to work on.” 

Missing from the action was redshirt senior Nino Bonaccorsi. Bonaccorsi, who competed in the NCAA tournament finals last season, will travel to Serbia next week to represent Team USA at the U23 Freestyle World Wrestling Championships. Bonaccorsi is currently ranked second in the country at 197 pounds.   

Looking ahead to the regular season, the Panthers will face nationally ranked programs, as well as ACC foes. The Panthers currently stand as the 16th ranked team in the nation. 

The program will travel to Buffalo for the first dual meet of the season on Nov. 12. The Panthers will make their home debut against Maryland at the Fitzgerald Field House on Nov. 21. However, the season’s marquee matchup will come on Feb. 11 when the fifth-ranked NC State Wolfpack travels to Pittsburgh for a dual with the Panthers. The Wolfpack won the ACC title last season.

Pitt will open the regular season with an all-day meet at the Clarion Open next Sunday. 

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