Teams from all over the region traveled to Pittsburgh to wrestle on Saturday, but the Panthers had no trouble with any of their competition after a close opening match.
In Pitt Duals at the Fitzgerald Field House on Saturday, the No. 20 Panthers defeated Duke, Davidson, Brown and Franklin and Marshall, behind a few decisive individual wins from Cody Wiercioch and Nick Bonaccorsi.
In the final match of the day, Pitt (7-1) beat Franklin and Marshall 25-12, with Wiercioch’s 165-pound tech fall.
“He wasn’t trying too much,” Wiercioch said. “I think he was just trying to ride the match out and not lose too badly. I just opened him up on top, and the points just kept coming in.”
Wiercioch’s result was indicative of the team’s performance on Saturday.
To start off Pitt Duals, the hosts defeated ACC opponent Duke 23-19, in the only competitive match of the day. The Panthers moved on to steamroll Davidson 43-3 and Brown 29-9. Assistant coach Drew Headlee said the Duke win was important because it was the only conference opponent the team faced on Saturday.
“In the first match, we were a little down, but it took our guys a couple matches for them to get in the swing of things,” Headlee said. “That was a momentum thing that we used, we obviously prepared for Duke knowing that they were in the ACC, and we needed that win. We didn’t wrestle as well as we could have, so in everything, we were looking to dominate from that point on.”
Pitt hosted the event, which started at 9 a.m. and also featured Harvard, North Carolina State, Bloomsburg, Columbia, Edinboro and Hofstra.
Pitt head coach Jason Peters said team mainstays like Wiercioch and Bonaccorsi helped keep the team’s performance level all day.
“We regrouped at the break and wanted to hustle and be aggressive,” Peters said. “I think the guys did a good job responding. We did a good job moving our lineup around and were able to get a few good wins.”
Against Franklin and Marshall, Bonaccorsi pinned his opponent after building a large early lead, moving Pitt’s advantage to a decisive 25-9 heading into the heavyweight bout. Peters said that effort was a nice improvement from the beginning of the day, when Pitt couldn’t build an early lead over Duke.
“The first match, we stood around a lot and didn’t get going. We were a little lazy getting back to the center,” Peters said.
Next time out, Pitt will stay in the Fitzgerald Field House and host No. 7 Oklahoma State on Jan. 17 at 2 p.m. The event will be the first of a four-match home stretch.
Headlee said the next match will be key to preparing the team for ACC Championships in March.
“Everybody knows that next week is a really big match, with Oklahoma State coming to town” Headlee said. “Our guys are gonna get a couple days off, then it’s going to be a hard week of practice.”
Peters added that the rankings can help group skilled teams, but individual performances matter more than the polls.
“We’ll take it one week at a time,” Peters said. “I don’t think we have a non-ranked team until February. I don’t know what rankings mean, but people think they’re pretty good, so they must be good.”