Pitt loses first match against No. 15 Lehigh


By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

Pat Santoro got the homecoming he wanted.

Santoro, No. 15 Lehigh’s head wrestling coach, was a four-time All-American and two-time national champion at Pitt, and his Mountain Hawks came out of the Fitzgerald Field House Saturday with a 19-12 victory.

Despite consecutive wins over ranked opponents by redshirt senior Max Thomusseit and redshirt junior Nick Bonaccorsi at 184 and 197 pounds, respectively, it was too late for the No. 11 Pitt wrestling team. With the loss, Pitt dropped to 3-1 on the season.

Searching for its first 4-0 start since the 2007-08 season, Pitt started the match slowly, dropping the first three matches of the dual to fall behind 9-0 in team points.

After dropping the opening bout at 125, Pitt sent out redshirt freshman Nick Zanetta to face No. 7 Mason Beckman at 133 pounds. Zanetta wrestled Beckman strong and headed into the third and final period only down 1-0 after a Beckman escape.

In the third, some controversy echoed around the mat as Beckman appeared to be doing very little to work for points, instead just laying on Zanetta, yet was not awarded stalling points. Beckman won the match 2-0 after winning another point for a riding time advantage — for controlling Zanetta for more than one minute.

“There are moments when there could have been stalling. It’s a judgment call by the ref,” Zanetta said. “I could have done a better job letting myself get out instead of relying on the ref.”

Pitt gained its first team points in the fourth bout as No. 16 sophomore Mikey Racciato continued his undefeated campaign (4-0), winning a high-scoring match 11-9 over Lehigh sophomore Drew Longo at 149 pounds, cutting the team score deficit to 9-3.

The Panthers hoped to pick up a victory at 174 with All-American Tyler Wilps, but the senior could not wrestle because of an injury, and his replacement, redshirt senior Troy Reaghard, lost the bout.

With Lehigh leading 16-6 heading into 184, two undefeated wrestlers, No. 5 Thomusseit of Pitt and No. 6 Nathaniel Brown of Lehigh, took the mat for a highly anticipated match.

Thomusseit started the bout with a huge throw and takedown of Brown, and he tacked on two near-fall points to take a 4-0 lead. Thomusseit picked up another takedown later in the match and held on to a 6-4 victory, cutting the team score to 16-9 while providing the crowd with some much-needed energy.

Despite facing another highly ranked opponent, nothing changed coming in for Thomusseit.

“It’s the same game plan every time: Stay on your offense, and keep getting takedowns,” he said. “When you have a tough opponent like that, you know it’s going to be close. You just do what you can and don’t let the team points affect you and just worry about your match and stay on the offense.”

No. 7 Bonaccorsi followed up Thomusseit’s exciting win with one of his own, defeating No. 14 Elliot Riddick of Lehigh in overtime, 5-3. After securing a reversal late in the third period to tie the match and send it into overtime, Bonaccorsi wasted no time in the extra period, earning a takedown and a thrilling victory just 13 seconds in, cutting the team score to 16-12.

Sophomore John Rizzo couldn’t get a fall in the 285-pound bout, which would have given Pitt six team points and the win.

In what seemed like a disappointing loss, head coach Jason Peters wasn’t entirely displeased with the outcome.

“I think we did alright,” Peters said. “Lehigh tied us up, and we didn’t get to our attacks well enough, and they beat us.”

“I’d give it a ‘C’,” Thomusseit said about the team’s performance on the night, “but we wrestle again on Friday. We’ll get the win, and we’ll forget about this and keep moving forward.”

Pitt will have almost a full week off to prepare for its upcoming match with No. 5 Penn State on Friday, Nov. 21 at the Petersen Events Center.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Peters said. “It should be a good duel.”