No. 8 Pitt takes control of ACC with win against No. 13 Virginia


After the No. 8 Pitt wrestling team upset No. 5 Oklahoma State early last week, the Panthers needed to maintain focus just five days later against another top opponent. 

“It was important not to get caught up in all the hype after beating Oklahoma State,” senior Anthony Zanetta said. “With only five days in between competition, it was important to stay focused on the task ahead.”

Zanetta and the he Panthers kept their focus well enough to notch an emphatic 25-9 victory over No. 13 Virginia and by result, took control of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Improving to 3-0 in conference, No. 8 Pitt defeated the Cavaliers — who were also undefeated in ACC play before Friday’s match.

The Panthers maintained their resolve as they cruised to a 16-point victory by winning 7-of-10 matches against the Cavaliers. On a six-match winning streak, Virginia entered the Fitzgerald Field House as a hot team, but the Cavaliers were outpaced Friday night.

“We got out-wrestled tonight, no question about it,” Virginia head coach Steve Garland said. “We haven’t been in this position in a while.”

A third-period takedown separated Zanetta from his opponent, Nick Herrmann, to jumpstart Pitt to an early lead.

Virginia’s Joseph Martinez tied the match at three with his 1-0 victory over Pitt’s No. 17 Shelton Mack at 133 pounds.

Once again, Pitt’s two true freshmen in the lineup played an integral role in the team’s win.

“Being halfway through the season, I don’t feel like a freshman anymore,” freshman Edgar Bright said. “I’ve taken on the responsibility of being a collegiate athlete, and I’ve grown a lot mentally since the preseason.”

No. 19 Bright picked up his second-straight victory over a ranked opponent, defeating No. 16 Joe Spisak 5-3.

“Big wins back-to-back over ranked wrestlers is great,” he said. “My confidence has grown immensely.”

Fellow freshman Mikey Racciato also capped a successful two matches with a pin over Virginia’s Justin Van Hoose. Racciato’s pin last week against Oklahoma State was the match’s deciding factor.

“I’m definitely more comfortable now just due to the experience,” he said. “I feel I’m wrestling the same. Just a little harder, and we are all getting in better shape.”

Virginia narrowed the deficit to just three points, 12-9, with wins at 157 and 165 pounds.

With the match in limbo, the Panthers rolled their two highest-ranked wrestlers onto the mat, and they succeeded.

No. 7 Tyler Wilps, at 174 pounds, earned a major decision over No. 12 Stephen Doty and took down the ranked Virginia wrestler five times.

It wasn’t as easy for No. 6 Max Thomusseit, who, at 184 pounds, defeated No. 20 Jon Fausey 5-3.

At 197 pounds, No. 18 Nick Bonaccorsi secured the official victory for the Panthers with a 3-1 decision over Zach Nye.

Pitt’s P.J. Tasser won the final match of the night in overtime. After Tasser escaped in his down period, he was able to ride out his opponent, Ethan Hayes, for 30 seconds to earn the victory and push the final score to 25-9.

Tasser, who gave up about 50 pounds to his opponent, has been involved in several overtime matches this season.

“I think [overtime matches] play to my advantage with my conditioning,” Tasser said. “As a team, we prepare for the possibility of overtime. If and when we have to, we can wrestle those 10- and 11-minute long matches.”

Pitt, now alone at the top of the ACC standings, travels to West Virginia next weekend for an out-of-conference matchup.

The Panthers have two matches remaining against ACC opponents, but the victory over the Cavaliers will go a long way in deciding the ACC’s regular-season championship.

“We knew how important this dual was to us,” Racciato said. “It’s a huge step in winning the ACC.”