Wrestling: Pitt defeats West Virginia

By Mike Furlong

The wrestling team is still undefeated in the Eastern Wrestling League.

Pitt team out-muscled… The wrestling team is still undefeated in the Eastern Wrestling League.

Pitt team out-muscled the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Backyard Brawl Friday night as the Panthers picked up a 21-14 win in front of a season-high home crowd of 1,287.

On a night the Pitt Athletic Department promoted as “Fill the Fitz,” The Panthers and Mountaineers split the match with five victories each, but Pitt earned six bonus points on falls to produce the difference.

“The team did a good job. They started off good and did well,” assistant coach Jason Peters said. “The team fought hard, it was a good night for us.”

Redshirt junior Tyler Nauman also thought the team put forth a good effort.

“I thought we wrestled really well. Everyone went out there and got after it.” Nauman said. “A couple close matches went the other way, and I feel like we could’ve gotten them too and made it a blowout.”

Before the match began, Pitt welcomed back 20 wrestling alumni to the Fitzgerald Field House crowd.

“It’s always great for our guys to have support from the past wrestlers here.” Peters said. “For them to continue to come back to see our guys wrestle, it’s exciting.”

One of the alumni was Hugh Peery from the class of 1956. Peery was described by fellow former Panthers as a true wrestling legend at Pitt. During his career at the University, Peery was a three-time national champion and compiled a 56-1 record in his time. He studied at the School of Dental Medicine.

Peery comes from a wrestling family. His father, Rex, was the head coach at Pitt in the 1950s and brought the program to prominence in that era. His brother, Ed, was also a three-time national champion for the Panthers.

“It’s great to be back here to see the boys take on West Virginia. It’s very exciting.” Peery said prior to the match. “It should be a good match, but I think we’re gonna get ’em.”

At 125 pounds, sophomore Anthony Zanetta started the match in the same way he often does, with a fast-paced victory. Zanetta took down his opponent, Shane Young, and rode him out for the entire second period. Zanetta went on to win the match by a score of 5-3.

“I thought Zanetta did a great job tonight.” Peters said. “He focused on wrestling and not on the outcome and the scoreboard spoke for him.”

At 133 pounds, Pitt freshman Shelton Mack had the tall order of facing off with No. 15 Nathan Pennesi. Mack stayed close and entered the third period down only 1-0. After two Pennesi takedowns in the 3rd period, Mack fell by a score of 5-2.

At 141 pounds, Nauman, now ranked No. 8 in the nation, scored eight points in the first period, including a takedown to opponent Michael Morales’ back, as well as a half-nelson turn for another three near-fall points. In the second period, Morales couldn’t escape anymore as Nauman finished the match with a fall at the 4:02 mark.

“I really think Tyler is getting back on track.” Peters said. “We need our stars to win to beat good teams. That’s what they did tonight. Not only did they get wins, but they got pins, which is what we needed.”

Following the match, the Mountaineers were deducted one team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

With the Panthers up 9-2, Pitt sophomore Dane Johnson took the mat against former All-American Brandon Rader. Johnson took an early 2-0 lead on a double-leg takedown, before falling 5-4 on a late Rader takedown.

Redshirt sophomore Donnie Tasser pulled in a dominating 3-0 decision after controlling Ryan Goodman for most of the match.

After the Mountaineers scored back-to-back victories at 165 pounds and 174 pounds, the Panthers were up just 12-11.

Freshman Max Thomusseit helped the Panthers along with a 7-5 victory at 184 pounds. Thomusseit scored on a single-leg lift takedown in the first period and a key reversal in the third period.

Thomusseit, now ranked No. 20 in the nation, won his 22nd match of the year, tying him for the team lead with redshirt junior Ethan Headlee.

With junior Zac Thomusseit still out of the lineup at 197 pounds, senior Phil Sorrentino continued filling in for the Panthers, wrestling up from his usual 165 and 174 pound weight classes. Sorrentino wrestled another tough match, but came up short when Cameron Gallagher scored an escape in the second period and added an additional point for riding time.

As redshirt senior heavyweight Ryan Tomei took to the mat, the Panthers held onto a one-point lead with the score at 15-14. The Mountaineers sent out senior Kyle Rooney, the usual starting 197-pounder.

Despite a scoreless first period, Tomei used his size advantage and quickness to escape from bottom and take down Rooney with a single-leg takedown in the second period. Tomei turned Rooney to his back and finished the bout with a fall at the 4:31 mark.

“[Tomei] did a good job.” Peters said. “West Virginia tried to bump a [1]97-pounder up to wrestle him and Tomei did what he’s supposed to do and he pinned him.”

The fall by Tomei was his 36th of his career, putting him into sole possession of 2nd place on the Panthers all-time pins list behind only Pat Santoro, now the head wrestling coach of Lehigh.

Nauman said the Panthers should pick up two solid wins next weekend.

We got Edinboro the week after that,” Nauman said. “Edinboro is always a tough match. It’s not quite as big a rivalry as West Virginia, but we always want to beat them. Everyone says they’re having a down year, but I know they want to try and beat us.”

Nauman said that one of the goals of the team was to go on and win the EWL dual title as well as continue on after that.

“We want the dual meet title but we also want the EWL Tournament title too because we’ve never had that before.”

Donnie Tasser is a staff writer for The Pitt News.