Wrestling: Familiar face returns to Pitt, defeats Panthers

By Mike Furlong

The Pitt wrestling team began its home schedule against a familiar face.

The Panthers’… The Pitt wrestling team began its home schedule against a familiar face.

The Panthers’ Friday night match against No. 15 Lehigh marked the return of Mountain Hawks head coach Pat Santoro to his alma mater.

While attending Pitt from 1985-89, Santoro was a standout wrestler under current head coach Rande Stottlemyer, posting records for most career wins and pins. Santoro also posted season records for most wins, pins and most matches without a loss.

Santoro is also the only Panther in history to be a four-time NCAA All-American.

After the match, Coach Santoro spoke very highly of his time as a Pitt student-athlete and of Stottlemyer.

“It’s always great coming back. It’s like Pittsburgh is a home away from home. It’s always great to be back. Always great to see Rande [Stottlemyer] because we try to stay in touch and we talk at least every couple of weeks.

The No. 14 Panthers were unable to defeat Lehigh, losing 29-7.

Returning All-American and redshirt junior Tyler Nauman sat out the 141-pound match due to an undisclosed injury. Nauman’s absence was a major loss after last season’s undefeated dual-meet season.

“Of course when you’re missing your All-American, it’s very difficult,” Stottlemyer said. “Guys like Nauman certainly don’t grow on trees, so we really missed having him in the lineup.”

Filling in at 141-pounds was freshman Mike Tully. Tully was wrestling in his first collegiate dual meet and lost by major decision, 16-2.

The return of Ethan Headlee at 174-pounds after a redshirt season did not go as planned, and the junior fell to his opponent 6-4.

Earlier in the week, assistant coach Matt Kocher spoke very highly of Headlee and about his return to the lineup for the Panthers.

“Ethan Headlee, in my opinion, is one of the toughest, if not the toughest guy in our room,” Kocher said. “He’s a guy I wrestle around with and I see a lot in him. I think he’s capable of placing at nationals.”

In the heavyweight match, redshirt senior Ryan Tomei faced off against Zach Rey, the top-ranked heavyweight in the nation. The match was unable to be decided in regulation time and went into overtime with a score of 1-1.

In the sudden-victory portion, neither Tomei nor Rey could secure a takedown, and the match was forced into a ride-out in which each wrestler was given a chance in the bottom position to escape and score.

In the ride-out, Tomei was unable to escape, and Rey came away with the win. Tomei was unable to secure a takedown as time expired, and the match ended 2-1.

Despite the loss, the Panthers still have high expectations for the rest of the season. Santoro recognized Pitt’s talent.

“We knew it would be one of these matches that would come down to the wire,” he said. “This is a team that if we wrestle again tomorrow, a lot of these matches could go the other way. They have a really talented team and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again this season.”

On Saturday, Pitt lost another tough match to Michigan, 17-15. Pitt and Michigan split the matches with five victories each but Michigan won the contest on bonus points.

The Panthers’ squad wrestles again on Saturday at the Buckeye Duals with matches against Ohio State and Nebraska.

“We’re certainly not shying away from the competition,” Stottlemyer said. “Both Nebraska and Ohio State have established programs so we’re learning from things and getting back out there against good teams.”