original photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
The 24th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers made a short trek to Annapolis, Maryland, to kick off their 2021 season against Cary Kolat’s Navy Midshipmen. The Panthers were in danger of letting their season-opening dual meet slip through their fingers, as they dropped four of their first five bouts and trailed the home team, 14-3. Senior 165 lber, #10 Jake Wentzel, was able to stop Navy’s three-match winning streak and get the Panthers back on track with his 5-2 win over #6 Tanner Skidgel. Both wrestlers were conference champions in 2020 and Skidgel was awarded the ninth seed at NCAA’s, while Wentzel was seeded eleventh. Skidgel was the highest-ranked member of the Navy squad. All the scoring for both parties came on the mat. Wentzel rode Skidgel for the entire second period after finishing the first scoreless. Skidgel got on the board with a pair of nearfall points but was revered by Wentzel to his back. A riding time point was added for Jake to take the victory, 5-2. After Wentzel’s win, the remaining four Panther upperweights all were victorious, which resulted in a 22-14 win for Keith Gavin’s team.
Last season, the pair competed in the same weight class at the Southern Scuffle, with Tanner making the finals and Jake settling for sixth-place. The two did not meet at that event, but do have a bit of a history. Wentzel notched a 9-2 win over Skidgel at the 2018 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. He would later have his season cut short due to injury. Last year marked the first time that Wentzel qualified for the NCAA Championships after tallying an 18-7 record. Jake grabbed his 2020 ACC title with a 3-1 win over four-time All-American David McFadden (Virginia Tech) in the championship bout.