Beating Lehigh in its home gym is no easy task as the Panthers’ win ended the Mountain Hawks’ 26-match home winning streak.
“This was a total team effort,” Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer said. “And we did it in their gym. That was a hard-fought win.”
The key match of the night, as many expected it would be, was at 197, a rematch between Pitt national qualifier Matt Wilps and Joe Kennedy.
With Pitt leading 15-10, Wilps, ranked seventh in the nation by InterMat Wrestling, came through with a thrilling come-from-behind win over the ninth-ranked Kennedy to clinch the match for the Panthers.
Kennedy looked poised to avenge a 2-1 overtime loss to Wilps in the semifinals of last week’s Buffalo Open. The Lehigh senior scored a third-period takedown to take a 3-1 lead. But a late flurry resulted n an escape and a double-leg takedown by Wilps for the win.
“That’s what you expect out of an upperclassmen and a guy who wants to be on the podium at the NCAAs this year,” Stottlemyer said.
Knowing Lehigh had four wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the final five weight classes, Pitt did exactly what it needed to early in the match. The Panthers took a 15-0 lead with decisions in the first five matches.
Junior Anthony Zanetta got things rolling for the Panthers with a 9-2 decision over freshman Mason Beckman. In a battle of former Pennsylvania state champions, Zanetta improved to 5-0 on the season, fueled by three takedowns.
Pitt sophomore Shelton Mack followed Zanetta by defeating Chris Dinnien for the second time this season. Mack had four takedowns in a 10-5 win.
The Panthers continued their dominance on their feet with freshman Travis Shaffer’s win at 141. Wrestling in his first career college dual meet, Shaffer used an escape and a takedown in the third period to shut out Alex Abreu, 3-0.
The Mountain Hawks finally tallied their first takedown at 149 as Kyle Rosser took an early 2-0 lead over Pitt All-American Tyler Nauman. Rosser fell to Nauman, ranked third in the country, at the Buffalo Open in a match that wasn’t really close, but nearly pulled off the upset this time around. In a match that was tightly contested from start to finish, Nauman turned a Rosser takedown attempt into one of his own late in the final period to seal a 7-6 win.
Returning national qualifier Donnie Tasser’s 6-2 win at 157 finished off the run for Pitt. Also, his two takedowns gave the Panthers a 12-1 advantage (24-2 in points) from the neutral position through five matches.
Coach Stottlemyer was pleased with his team’s performance, giving credit to everyone involved, including assistant coaches Jason Peters and Matt Kocher for having the team ready for each opponent.
Three of the Panthers’ four losses came to nationally-ranked wrestlers.
Pitt consistently has an elite program, but Lehigh has always been a tough match, as evident by the 15-38 all-time record the Panthers had against the Mountain Hawks entering Saturday’s match. Even during an outstanding 2009-10 season that saw the Panthers finish 17-1-1, the Mountain Hawks were the lone blemish on the schedule.
“This is a great start, but we’ll keep our feet on the ground,” Stottlemyer said. “it’s a long season.”
The Panthers will have little time to dwell on the victory as they have a match at Drexel on Sunday. The match with the Dragons is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Courtesy of Pitt Sports information