Early major decision helps Pitt wrestling to big win over Maryland

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

Despite its No. 11 ranking, Pitt had lost its last two dual matches entering Friday night. Dom Forys knew the team needed a win to stop the skid.

“It’s all about who wants it more and who is willing to work hard for it,” Forys said.

The freshman started Pitt off with a 17-4 major victory at 125 pounds, spotting the Panthers (4-2, 0-0 ACC) a four-point team lead en route to a 26-9 Pitt victory over Maryland (4-4, 0-2 Big Ten) at the Fitzgerald Field House.

Forys used a quick move on Josh Polacek of Maryland to earn a takedown and nearly get an opening-match pin. However, the 13-point win was good enough for a major decision and four team points for the Panthers.

Forys constantly showed more energy than his opponent, returning to the mat and to the ready position quickly.

“If you’re willing to push harder than he is, then you’re going to win the match,” he said. “You gotta push the pace and go the full seven minutes.”

Head coach Jason Peters emphasized the importance of Forys going out and winning the first bout.

“He just continued to keep the gas on and get a major, so that was good for us,” Peters said.

In the 133-pound bout, Pitt’s Nick Zanetta faced his fourth top-10 opponent of the season in No. 8 Geoffrey Alexander. Zanetta was 0-3 against those opponents, and that streak continued on Friday.

The redshirt freshman took a narrow 1-0 lead into the final period, but a takedown by Alexander in the third period won him the bout 3-1 and cut Pitt’s lead to 4-3.

After the intermission, redshirt freshman Cody Wiercioch got the scoring started at the 165 for Pitt with two takedowns in the second period. Weircioch expertly took down Tyler Manion near the end of the third period, let him escape and took him down again just in time to earn the four-point major decision for the Panthers.

“[The coaches] were pushing me to get more takedowns, so I was doing exactly what they were telling me to do,” he said.

Wiercioch said he understood the importance of earning a big win and its impact on the rest of the match.

“I know if there’s a big win before me, it pumps me up and gets the crowd going,” he said. “It gets the train rolling for bigger things.”

Forys said the same thing, adding that “it helps out a lot.”

“Everybody wants to match that. If you start out with a loss, everybody feels like they have to put more pressure on themselves,” Forys said.

Redshirt senior Troy Reaghard wrestled in the match’s only overtime bout, when he and Josh Snook ended the third period tied 2-2. The crowd reached its peak excitement level midway through the second overtime period, when Reaghard rolled Snook over and took him down, going on to win the bout seconds later.

No. 2 senior Max Thomusseit put an end to any hope the Terrapins had of mounting a comeback when he pinned Tony Gardner less than a minute into the first period. Thomusseit is now 10-0 this season and has two pins on the year.

Peters said that Thomusseit “is focused on trying to [win a national championship].”

“He’s putting his mind to what he wants to do, and he’s going out and executing,” Peters said. “It’s good where he’s at.”

Senior standout wrestler Tyler Wilps did not wrestle in the match, still recovering from a broken arm. He is nearing the end of the 4-6 week timetable for the injury, and Peters said he is close to a return to the mat.

“It’s a matter of making sure he’s right,” Peters said. “We’ve tried to get him back sooner, but we need to wait until he heals.”

Peters said that Wilps will “probably” be ready for the Southern Scuffle, Pitt’s next competition taking place in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Jan. 1-2.

Wiercioch said the team isn’t overly worried about losing focus during the long layoff until then.

“We’ll practice every day, probably do a few runs and try to stay healthy, but that’s about it,” he said.