Pitt Wrestling: What To Look For Towards Lehigh On Saturday

On Saturday, the Panthers, currently ranked 13th according to the latest NWCA coaching poll, will battle rival Lehigh No. 17 at Fitzgerald Field House for the first fanless Pitt home meeting of 2021. The meeting is the 65th all Times for the enemies of Pennsylvania.

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The Panthers are 1-0 the year after defeating Cary Kolat’s Navy Midshipmen 22-14 on Sunday at the Alumni Arena in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Mountain Hawks of Lehigh, whose start against Hofstra on January 2 was canceled due to COVID-19 problems as part of the Hofstra program, will open their 2021 season with rival Pitt Panthers in a top 25 showdown.

Two Mountain Hawks appear in the latest InterMat rankings, led by Senior Brandon Paetzell, who is fourth at 125. Senior Jake Jakobsen is 15th with 197. Three Mountain Hawks appear in the FloWrestling and Amateur Wrestling News rankings. Lehigh has seven wrestlers in The Open Mat’s top 33 and five by trackwrestling. Different outlets rank two different Lehigh wrestlers at 141, senior Luke Karam and newcomer Connor McGonagle.

Five Panthers appear for Pitt in the latest FloWrestling rankings, including Micky Phillippi (No. 6 at 133); Cole Mathews (No. 16 at 141); Jake Wentzel (No. 8 at 165); Gregg Harvey (No. 22 at 184); and Nino Bonaccorsi (No. 5 at 197). As a team, FloWrestling ranks the Panthers in 15th place, although NWCA Coaches placed Poll Pitt a bit higher in 13th.

Pitt head coach Keith Gavin led the Panthers to a dramatic 19:18 win at Lehigh last season is looking forward to another matchup against the defending EIWA conference champion.

“Since this is a shortened season, every opportunity is huge,” said Gavin. “We are particularly grateful to everyone who has contributed to our being able to compete at home again. We have a lot of respect for Lehigh and expect another challenging double against them. “

WHAT TO SEE: Lehigh in Pitt, 5pm, ACC Network Extra

• Look for Pitt to get started faster on the lighter weights. While the Panthers have faced some inexperience in the previous bouts, two-time ACC Champion Micky Phillipi should be able to score more than three points for the team standings on Saturday. Look for the Derry native for a bonus point victory.

“I got off to a slow start in my match (Sunday), I think I could have scored earlier,” said Phillipi of his match at Navy. “I’ll go out there and score early, score often.”

• Expect Cole Mathews to perform well and improve his national ranking. After a sudden win on Sunday against a senior opponent in a match he didn’t exactly have the best approach – trying to maintain a lead rather than scoring extra points to increase his point lead.

“Cole Mathews is skillful and talented enough,” Gavin told the media on Wednesday. “He scored early (against Navy) and tried to manage the clock for the rest of the game. It’s just such a stressful way of wrestling. It’s a bad strategy and we talked about it. He had a great exercise yesterday. “

• Pay attention to the back half of the Pitt roster to get the Saturday meeting going. Pitt rallied against the Navy to win the last five fights of the doubles game, the last two fights resulting from technical falls. The five straight wins helped the Panthers eliminate an 11 point deficit and ultimately win the dual. Expect the overweights to look strong on their 2021 home debut.

• Pitt will be counting on his team captains to make it big. In tough rivalry duals, one must rely on the guidance of a veteran to help the team achieve a victory. Phillipi, Harvey, Wentzel and Bonaccorsi are expected to not only win, but also to gain a bonus point or two.

• Wentzel has to accelerate. He started the season well. On Sunday, the then tenth Wentzel defeated the then seventh rank of the Navy, Tanner Skidgel, and won 5-2 while recording almost two minutes of driving time. The win not only earned South Park, a native of Pa, a leap in the rankings (No. 8 in the latest Flo rankings), it also earned him multiple weekly and national awards from various outlets. Despite his early success in 2021 and his status as the reigning ACC champion, some outlets have selected the senior to take third or fourth place within the conference. With that, Wentzel will probably wrestle with a chip on his shoulder all season.

The dual on Saturday is followed by a series of additional matches that count towards a wrestler’s season record. The Mountain Hawks return half of their lineup from last year’s EIWA triumph, but only two of the five are expected to face the Panthers.

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