In the middle of tough stretch, Panthers fall

By Adam Littman

For the third time in its first four matches, the Pitt wrestling team faced a ranked opponent… For the third time in its first four matches, the Pitt wrestling team faced a ranked opponent when it hosted No. 7 Illinois Saturday night. ‘We don’t have a bunch of softies [on our schedule],’ said Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer. Unfortunately for the No. 25 Panthers (1-3, 1-0 EWL), Saturday also marked the third time this year they lost to a ranked opponent, as the Panthers dropped the first two matches and couldn’t erase the early deficit on their way a 26-10 lose. ‘They’re ranked seventh in the country for a reason,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘That’s where we’re trying to compete. That’s where we want to be.’ The Illini (6-0) took seven of 10 matches ‘mdash; including the first two and last four. Illinois jumped out to quick six-point advantage after B.J. Futrell pinned freshman Chris Albright in the 125-pound match. Albright trailed 2-1 after scoring a point for an escape. Futrell answered back with a defensive takedown when the two wrestlers fell to the mat with Albright’s legs wrapped around Futrell’s body. With his back facing Albright, Futrell squirmed around until he angled his body for the pin fall. Stottlemyer was upset with the pin call, questioning the referee, because he said it was a defensive fall and those are usually called differently from regular takedown and pin attempts. ‘That was a bad call, but you live with it,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘That hurt us. We were in the match. We were creating momentum for our team. Even in a loss you can create momentum for the team, and it was frustrating to start that way.’ Whatever momentum might’ve been building didn’t carry over to the next match for the Panthers. In the 133-pound bout, No. 3 Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois defeated No. 14 Jimmy Conroy with a major decision, which is when a wrestler takes the match by eight or more points, thus earning four points for his team instead of three as for a decision. Kennedy used five takedowns, a reversal and scored an additional point for accumulating more than a minute of riding time to earn a 13-5 major decision over Conroy. The Panthers trailed 10-0 just two matches in but started a comeback that eventually fell short in the 141-pound match.’ Freshman Tyler Nauman scored a takedown in the first period against Ryan Prater, and it was all he needed in the 2-0 win. It was the 18th win of the season for the No. 11-ranked wrestler in the 141-pound weight class. Trailing 10-3, Mark Powell earned the Panthers four points with his 8-0 major decision victory over Eric Terrazas. The senior led 4-0 heading into the third period after takedowns in the first and second, then scored three points for a near fall late in the final period and was awarded an additional point for accumulating more than a minute of riding time, giving him the major decision. ‘We really needed them to do just that,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘They both did good jobs of finding a way to win.’ The Illini answered back with a major decision of their own in the 157-pound match, as former No. 1-ranked Mike Poeta fought in only his second match this year because of an injury. Poeta dominated from the start, scoring a takedown and near fall within the first 30 seconds of the match. He went on to win 17-5, bringing Illinois’ lead back up to seven.’ Headlee was the last victorious Panther on the day, earning a 5-3 decision in the 165-pound bout over No. 11 Roger Smith-Bergsrud. In the first period, Headlee held onto Smith-Bergsrud by his leg as he tried to inch out of bounds and earn a restart. Headlee dragged Smith-Bergsrud toward the center of the ring and completed the takedown for two points.’ The 174- and 184-pound fights were rematches from bouts earlier in the year, with Illinois’ John Dergo and Jordan Blanton getting the best of Pitt’s Dave Sullivan and Zac Thomusseit earlier in the season. The same happened Saturday, as Dergo defeated Sullivan and No. 15 Blanton bested Thomusseit both, by scores of 6-2. The Panthers dropped the last two matches as well, with Patrick Bond beating Matt Wilps 5-1 to clinch the victory for Illinois. In the heavyweight bout, No. 4 Zach Sheaffer dropped his third match of the year with his loss to No. 10 John Wise 6-2. Wise scored two takedowns against Sheaffer, becoming the first person to score a takedown against him this year. The Panthers are off to Lock Haven Thursday night for an EWL-conference match. If there’s any positive looking ahead for the Panthers, Stottlemyer said, it’s that Pitt is fielding a young team, starting five freshmen and two sophomores. ‘We’re trying to work our way through the ranks,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘We’re learning on the job, but we can do better.’