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Penn State doubles up Pitt in marquee wrestling matchup

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

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The last time Pitt and Penn State faced off on the wrestling mat, they set a new NCAA attendance record of 15,996 at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

Pitt did not disappoint in its turn, filling the lower bowl at the Petersen Events Center on Friday night with a raucous mix of Pitt and Penn State fans. But the Nittany Lions pulled away late to win the match 24-12 in a match where a total of nine nationally-ranked wrestlers took the mat.

“You’re going to need an ‘A’ effort to beat Penn State…they outwrestled us a little bit and it showed on the scoreboard,” Pitt head coach Jason Peters said. “They won, hats off to them.”

Arguably the most important bout came for Pitt (3-2, 0-0 ACC) at 197 pounds, when No. 7 Nick Bonaccorsi faced off against No. 5 Morgan McIntosh of PSU (2-0, 0-0 Big 10), who held a 51-15 career record entering the bout. The Panthers trailed 14-12 and needed a win from Bonaccorsi to stay in the match.

But after McIntosh got an early three points for a near fall, he turned around for a quick pin on Bonaccorsi in the second period to earn six team points and clinch the match for Penn State heading into the 285-pound match.

“Once that was secured, I think it was pretty much done,” Peters said. “I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t surprised…[McIntosh] slammed the door on us.”

Edgar Bright made his first appearance of the season for Pitt at 141 pounds. The sophomore went 19-11 in his freshman campaign, and beat Kade Moss 3-2 on Friday.

“I’m still whipping myself back into shape, still fighting some injuries, but I’ll be fine,” Bright said. “This isn’t the peak of the season…we lost our focus a little bit, but we’ll bounce back from that and be fine.”

He added that the Petersen Events Center gave “a great atmosphere.”

“I’ve been in this atmosphere plenty of times, so it’s nothing new,” Bright said. “But it was great to have Pitt fans come and support us.”

Penn State had an opportunity to open up its lead at the 149-pound bout when No. 14 Zack Beitz of PSU faced No. 13 Mikey Racciato. Beitz started the scoring with a quick takedown, but Racciato secured a reversal right away to knot the match at two in the first period.

After a couple more takedowns, Beitz pulled away to win the match 11-5 and extend the Nittany Lions’ team lead to 10-3 at that point.

Pitt redshirt junior Ronnie Garbinsky opened the next bout at 157 with a quick four points from a takedown and two back points. He went on to win the bout 6-4. Garbinsky redshirted last season and is now 3-2 this season.

“[Sitting out last season] made me realize how much I love the sport and how much I benefit from it every day,” Garbinsky said. “Coming back this year excited me even more to wrestle.”

Matt Brown of Penn State showed why he has his No. 3 ranking, defeating Troy Reaghard 17-6. Brown continuously took Reaghard down, only to let him escape so that he could take him down again. Because the win was by more than eight points, Brown earned a major victory and grabbed four team points instead of the usual three.

Reaghard filled the 174-pound slot instead of injured senior Tyler Wilps, who continues to recover from a broken arm.

“[Wilps] is getting close, tonight’s the six-week mark,” Peters said. “As much as we wanted to see him and Brown go at it, we just have to wait.”

Bright was quick to point out that the team is still focused on the ACC and NCAA championships in March despite its current two-match losing streak.

“We’re working towards March to become national champions, so this is just another stepping stone to get to March,” he said.

Pitt has a quick turnaround, heading to Philadelphia for the Keystone Classic on Sunday, with its next dual match coming against Maryland on Dec. 5.

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Penn State doubles up Pitt in marquee wrestling matchup