2021 NCAA qualifier Cole Matthews (Photo Courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Pitt traveled across Pennsylvania on Sunday to meet the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh. Several matches were highly anticipated as ranked versus ranked matchups and we got to see the full lineup of Pitt starters with Nino Bonaccorsi making his debut, along with NCAA qualifiers Cole Matthews and Gregg Harvey. The Mountain Hawks made an undeniable statement that they should climb back into the dual rankings after an early-season loss to Campbell. Lehigh dominated at several weights and was able to win many of the tightly-contested matches to down the Panthers 26-9.
The biggest story of the dual was two losses for the Panthers. At 165 #4 Jake Wentzel took his first loss in a 4-3 decision to #30 Brian Meyer; Meyer finished a nice single early in the match and was able to get a second takedown in a scramble off a shot by Wentzel in the 3rd for a one-point victory. At 133, #5 Micky Phillippi had a wild match with #24 Malyke Hines with back-and-forth lead changes throughout the match. Phillippi got the go-ahead takedown late in the match and was looking to ride Hines out for the win. Hines hit a roll looking for the reversal, Phillippi followed into a crab ride--in the scramble that followed, Hines was able to catch Phillippi's head and hold him flat for a defensive pin with :03 left on the clock.
On the positive side for the Panthers, we saw the return of NCAA runner-up Nino Bonaccorsi and NCAA qualifiers Cole Matthews and Gregg Harvey--all of whom picked up wins for Pitt. At 141, #17 Matthews controlled the match and picked up a 7-4 decision over Dan Moran. #23 Gregg Harvey made his season debut in a 5-2 decision over AJ Burkhart at 184. Bonaccorsi, ranked #2 at 197, wrestled his first match of the year since returning from the U23 World Championship in Serbia. Nino dominated the match and was looking for a late takedown to stretch his lead to pick up the major decision, but he wasn't able to finish and won a 10-4 decision.
In his post-match interview, Coach Gavin spoke bluntly. "Lehigh wrestled well. We did not. We have to be ready for every match. We weren't ready today. That's on me. It's a bit of a wake-up call that we need to work on some things in practice. We look forward to having the opportunity to compete again tomorrow". The Panthers will look to reset and rebound quickly as they face the Maryland Terrapins in their home opener Monday night.
There will be a lot to watch on Monday night, but mostly to see how Pitt responds after a down performance. At 133 #5 Micky Phillippi will face a scrappy King Sandoval and at 165 #4 Jake Wentzel will be looking for a big win over #33 John Martin Best. Other matches to watch for are at 184 and 197. Both Harvey and Bonaccorsi will be wrestling in their second match and have tough opponents, even if they are outside the rankings. #23 Harvey will face Kyle Cochran and #2 Bonaccorsi will meet Jaron Smith. The other match I am intrigued by is at heavyweight; Jake Slinger had looked great to start the season, but fell yesterday to NCAA All-American Jordan Wood. He'll face #32 Zach Schrader tonight, who has also had a hot start to the season. Pitt is heavily favored over the Terps, but need to make a statement with their performance after the showing in Bethlehem.