Wrestling: Panthers to start Eastern Wrestling League competition

By Mike Furlong

Defending is the act of warding off an attack — and the opposite of what the Pitt Panthers… Defending is the act of warding off an attack — and the opposite of what the Pitt Panthers wrestling squad looks to do as it begins Eastern Wrestling League competition on Friday night.

Pitt (7-5) will start EWL wrestling with a match at Lock Haven (6-4) as the Panthers look to repeat as Eastern Wrestling Champions after last year’s title over Edinboro.

“We’re going to go out there and do the same as last year,” head coach Rande Stottlemyer said. “We’re chasing it, fighting for it. We’re not defending anything.”

The Panthers topped the Bald Eagles last season 28-9 at the Fitzgerald Field House.

The Bald Eagles enter Friday’s match coming off of a 1-2 record at the Spartan Duals held at Michigan State over the weekend. Lock Haven picked up a win over Olivet and two losses, to Michigan State and Eastern Michigan.

Statistically the best wrestlers for Lock Haven come at 141 pounds and heavyweight. At 141 pounds, the Bald Eagles have junior Matt Bonson, a transfer from the University of Virginia. Bonson is 11-0 on the season.

At heavyweight the Bald Eagles have redshirt sophomore Harry Turner, who holds a 15-7 record on the season.

The Panthers enter the matchup after a 3-1 showing at the Pitt Duals held at the Field House over the weekend. The Panthers picked up victories over Drexel, Davidson and Millersville with a stunning 17-15 loss to Northwestern.

“Obviously the loss was tough to take.” Stottlemyer said. “We were disappointed. But we keep on pluggin’ away. We had the three wins there, too, but we were definitely looking towards the matchup with Northwestern.”

In the match with Northwestern, the Panthers went down 14-3 early on but nearly took the match with four wins in the final five bouts.

The deciding bout came at 197 pounds, usually held for the Panthers by No. 7-ranked Zac Thomusseit. Due to an injury Thomusseit was held out of the dual and senior Phil Sorrentino, usually a 165-pounder, took his place.

Sorrentino wrestled a tough match, losing 3-2 to Marcus Shrewsbury on a late takedown.

“It was a heck of match,” Stottlemyer said. “Sorrentino did a heck of a job. It was a tough back-and-forth match where both guys had a chance to get the win. The crowd really got into it.”

A highlight of the day came in the first matchup where redshirt junior Tyler Nauman picked up his 100th career victory. Nauman recorded the win with a 15-0 technical fall.

“Nauman really does his job.” Stottlemyer said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys wrestle in my time, but he’s a guy that loves to compete. Anytime you put him between the white lines, he wrestles hard.”

Nauman battled back hard this season after an early season injury left him out of the lineup for several weeks.

Senior Andy Vaughan filled in for the Panthers and compiled a 4-0 record for the day. Vaughan had matches at both 174 pounds and 184 pounds.

Freshman Max Thomusseit also had a 4-0 record, wrestling at 184 pounds and 197 pounds and boosting his season win total to 15.

Redshirt senior heavyweight Ryan Tomei added to his perfect day with four victories.

“We got a chance to wrestle a lot of guys which was good,” Stottlemyer said. “A lot of our reserves got in there and wrestled hard which is good to see.”

One of these newcomers to the lineup was junior Josh Pascazi who picked up a victory at 149 pounds. A graduate from Butler High School, Pascazi went on to wrestle for two years at Duquesne before the university had to drop the program at the end of last season.

“Pascazi is an interesting guy for our team,” assistant coach Jason Peters said earlier in the season. “He’s a guy with some experience who was able to find a home with us after Duquesne dropped the wrestling team.”

Last weekend marked the halfway point of Pitt’s season, Stottlemyer said, and the Panthers are ready for EWL wrestling to begin.

“We’ve wrestled a strong schedule so far and now we have the chance to go ahead and go for another title,” Stottlemyer said.