2x ACC champion Micky Phillipi (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Two NCAA Finalists Lead Veteran Panther Squad
Coach Keith Gavin enters his fifth season at the helm of his Alma Mater. This team has grown and improved every year under Gavin and they have a strong core of upperclassmen; the lineup will contain six seniors and four juniors, with a couple underclassmen fighting to take a starting spot. The Panthers made the breakthrough to Saturday night last season, putting Jake Wentzel and Nino Bonaccorsi in the finals. "We needed that," said Coach Gavin, "We have been right there and haven't had great performances at Nationals, so it was great to get Jake and Nino into the finals." Pittsburgh will have a very strong dual lineup with five starters in the Intermat Preseason Rankings. "We are in a good spot; we need to build off the momentum from last year and get some other guys over the hump to All-American. We are taking it day-by-day to get better and to get to where we need to be at the end of the year".
The Panthers will look to the leadership of Jake Wentzel and Nino Bonaccorsi, who both finished as NCAA Runners-up in 2021. Nino will have a delayed start to the season as he is competing in the U23 World Championships at the beginning of November. Another Pitt veteran, Micky Phillippi, will look to break through to earn All-American status after two Bloodround finishes in three trips to the NCAA Championships. The Panthers could have six NCAA qualifiers in the lineup this season.
Though they had a veteran squad in 2020-2021, Pitt only lost one wrestler, Cole Aaron, to graduation. Mick Burnett, Anthony Collelo and Jared McGill left the program and entered the transfer portal during the preseason.
Gage Curry joins the Panthers as a transfer from American University. He is a four-time NCAA qualifier at 125 and will add experience at the bottom of the lineup. Elijah Cleary also comes over as a transfer from Ohio State. Cleary has been on the bubble for qualifying for the NCAA tournament and hopes to get over that hurdle this year in Pittsburgh. He will also provide experience and depth at a weight that was inconsistent last season. Both will make a big impact in the practice room by giving a new feel to Micky Phillippi and Jake Wentzel, respectively. True freshmen Luca Augustine and Brock McMillen will be challenging for starting spots and will not have redshirt decisions made until after open tournaments begin.
WRESTLERS TO WATCH
"We've got some good battles going on in the room right now and we have some young guys trying to get into the lineup," said Coach Gavin. True freshmen Luca Augustine and Brock McMillen are looking to crack the lineup. Augustine, a State Champ from Waynesburg, PA, will be fighting for the 174 spot while Brock McMillen, 4x finalist, 3x State Champ from Glendale, PA, will be challenging for the spot at 149.
"I feel good about our lineup. Nino and Jake took a big step last year and we have some others ready to do it this year. Micky has been right there; Cole has made a lot of gains," said Gavin. When asked what he was looking forward to for this season, he said, "we always have great competition in the ACC and we have some big non-conference matches with Arizona State, Ohio State and Lehigh this season. We are looking forward to having fans back at matches and having some normalcy. We'll take it match by match and I think we'll have a good year."
125: #23 Gage Curry (Sr) 4x NCAA Qualifier (American University)/Colton Camacho (So)
133: #7 Micky Phillippi (Sr) 3x NCAA Qualifier 2x ACC Champion
141: #22 Cole Matthews (Jr) NCAA Qualifier, 2021 ACC 3rd
149: Luke Kemerer (Jr)/Dan Mancini (So)/Brock McMillen (Fr)
157: Elijah Cleary (Sr) 2021 B1G 10 9th (Ohio State)
165: #4 Jake Wentzel (Sr) NCAA Runner-Up 2x NCAA Qualifier, 2x ACC Champion
174: Hunter Kernan (Jr)/Luca Augustine (Fr)
184: Gregg Harvey (Sr) NCAA Qualifier, 2021 ACC 3rd
197: #2 Nino Bonaccorsi (Sr) NCAA Runner-Up, 3x NCAA Qualifier, 2021 ACC Champion
285: Jake Slinger (Jr)