Wrestling: Panthers return home to take on Bloomsburg

By Mike Furlong

The Pitt wrestling team currently has three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the nation and… The Pitt wrestling team currently has three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the nation and each will look to pick up a win when the No. 23 Panthers face off against the Bloomsburg Huskies on Sunday.

After two straight matches on the road, Pitt (8-6, 1-0 EWL) returns to the Fitzgerald Field House for its Eastern Wrestling League home opener. Last season, Pitt defeated Bloomsburg (11-3, 0-1 EWL) 23-12 on the road.

“It’ll be nice to wrestle at home,” Pitt head coach Rande Stottlemyer said. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been at home, so we’re glad to be able to wrestle in our own confines.”

Redshirt senior Ryan Tomei agreed.

“It feels good to be able to wrestle a league match at home again,” he said. “It should be fun, but we still have to wrestle our best.”

So far this season the Panthers are 3-3 in dual meets at home, with a 3-1 day at the Pitt Duals on Jan. 9.

The Panthers are attempting to bounce back from a tough loss at Penn State last weekend. The Nittany Lions, now ranked No. 1 in the nation, defeated the Panthers by a score of 30-7.

“Penn State is No. 1 for a reason,” Stottlemyer said. “I don’t feel like we wrestled our best. It wasn’t our best performance, but it’s something that you learn from and move forward. There’s no way around it: Penn State has a heck of a team.”

Tomei said he was disappointed in himself and the team.

“I don’t think we wrestled our best,” he said. “Penn State is the best team in the country, but we came out a little flat. A couple more of our guys should have won, and if we had won a few more matches it could have been more interesting.”

Tomei is ranked No. 7 in the nation at heavyweight. He has the chance to become the second Panther wrestler to reach 100 wins — currently, Tomei is 99-32 in his tenure at Pitt and is 20-4 this season.

“I’m sure he knows he’s close to the 100 wins, but I don’t know if he does. It really is a great accomplishment for a guy like Tomei who didn’t have a lot of experience entering college. It’s something he should be proud of,” Stottlemyer said.

Tomei said he didn’t realize until recently how close he was to the milestone.

“It will be nice to go for the 100th win at home in front of our crowd. And it will be exciting, but, you know, I’d rather have a national championship,” he said.

Redshirt junior Tyler Nauman enters the match ranked No. 7 in the nation at 141 pounds. Two weeks ago, Nauman reached the 100th win of his collegiate career. He has battled back to a 16-3 record after sitting out of the lineup earlier this season with a hand injury.

Junior Zac Thomusseit also enters the match ranked, coming in  at No. 8 at 197 pounds. Thomusseit comes in with a team-leading 20-3 record. He also missed time this season with an injury.

“It’s been tough having him out,” Stottlemyer said. “He’s one of our top guys, so it’s been tough wrestling without him.”

Bloomsburg’s top two wrestlers each have 19 victories on the season.

At 184 pounds, Huskies senior Nate Graham is currently ranked No. 23 by the Coaches’ Panel poll.

Pitt freshman Max Thomusseit, who will match up with Graham, has amassed a 20-9 record so far in his rookie season.

“It’s tough for a guy like Max,” Stottlemyer said. “Having a freshman at the higher weights isn’t easy. But you know he’s getting to the point where, with all the experience, the whole freshman thing starts to wear out. He’s made some big strides and handled himself well.”

Bloomsburg will send out sophomore Frank Hickman at 157 pounds, currently ranked No. 24 by the Coaches’ Panel poll. Last season, Hickman dropped an 8-0 major decision at the hands of Nauman.

In his match with Hickman, redshirt sophomore Donnie Tasser will have a chance to improve upon his first full season in the Panthers’ lineup. Tasser has recorded a 14-13 record thus far.

At 125 pounds, sophomore Anthony Zanetta looks to follow up his victory against Penn State and make another run at an EWL title. Zanetta has had a tough second season for the Panthers after amassing a 34-10 record last season.“We’re in the home stretch now,” Stottlemyer said. “This is our run to the EWL title.”

Editor’s Note: Donnie Tasser is a staff writer for The Pitt News.