Saturday, October 2, 2021

2022: The Preseason: Pittsburgh

 Pittsburgh Panther wrestling started during the 1912-1913 season and over the past 109 years it has almost always been a respectable program.  The glory years of 1954-1963 when the team had two NCAA runner-up finishes and five third place NCAA finishes I would like to again see in Pittsburgh's future. As for now, 2022, I don't see that happening, but I'll tell you what I do see happening.  Last season Pittsburgh finished 11th in the nation, their highest finish since 1989 when they finished 13th.  I say they can outdo that finish this year.  I do believe Pittsburgh can finish out the 2021-2022 season a top 10 team.  They have three individuals on their squad capable of some really big things.  They are going to have to have guys step it up a notch. Perform above and beyond what may be written on paper.  

Gage Curry
Record: 114-50 
NCAA: 18'NQ, 19'NQ, 20'NQ, 21'NQ
EIWA: 18'WC, 19'3rd, 20'4th, 21'3rd

American transfer Gage Curry is an addition to the Pittsburgh lineup that will help them in their efforts of the goal of finishing within the top 10 of the NCAA.  A 12-6 victory over 7th place Killian Cardinale of West Virginia and a 7-6 victory over NCAA runner-up Brandon Courtney of Arizona State suggest that Curry is capable of making the award stand. Within the ACC he has both Jakob Camacho of North Carolina State and Sam Latona of Virginia Tech to contend with for a title. He took Latona into the tiebreakers losing a tight 4-3 decision. 

Micky Phillippi 
Record: 98-19
NCAA: 19'R12, 20'NQ, 21'R12
ACC: 19'1st, 20'1st, 21'2nd
MIDLANDS: 18'4th
CKLV: 19'2nd

If you read my preseason outlook on Central Michigan, I'll say the same thing for Phillippi that I said for Matt Stencel. Sometimes good wrestlers have bad tournaments. It happens.  Phillippi did not look good Vs Iowa's Austin DeSanto in a 13-5 major decision loss, but let me tell you something Phillippi has done that DeSanto has not.  He defeated Oklahoma State's Daton Fix 3-1.  A tight 4-3 loss to Roman Bravo-Young, I'm calling Phillippi a contender for the NCAA title.  Within the ACC he's going to have to keep his focus Vs Korbin Myers of Virginia Tech, who upset him for last year's title.  He's 3-2 Vs the Hokie overall. 

Cole Matthews
Record: 46-20
NCAA: 20'NQ, 21'NQ
ACC: 20'3rd, 21'3rd

After finishing 3rd in the ACC the past two seasons, I think Matthews is an eligible candidate to make the finals this season.  I can't see him defeating Zach Sherman of North Carolina, but there's no reason why he can't overcome Collin Gerardi of Virginia Tech or Jarrett Trombley of North Carolina State to make the finals.  As to the NCAA's, Matthews' biggest win thus far in my opinion is his first period fall over Josh Heil of Campbell.  He needs some more big win. As of right now I see him top 12, but not quite top 8. 

Luke Kemerer
Record: 22-20

When you start evaluating each weight class within the NCAA you come up with the top 33 in each weight class & then you notice there are wrestlers that fall within that 34th-40th range. The ones that are capable of a big upset here or there to steal a spot within the top 33.  Luke Kemerer strikes me as one of those wrestlers.  The ACC is tough at 149 lbs.  All American Tariq Wilson of North Carolina State leads the way with Kizhan Clarke of North Carolina, Jarod Verkleeren of Virgina, Josh Finesilver of Duke, and Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech.  As of right now I see Kemerer in the 6th place spot of the conference.  I don't think that in itself is good enough for NCAA qualification, but can I see him upset his way into NCAA qualification? Yes, I can. 

Elijah Cleary 
Record: 71-55

He has yet to make the NCAA tournament, but he was only one match shy of qualification last season. With victories over NCAA qualifiers Tyler Eischens of Stanford, Jake Tucker of Michigan State and Eric Barone of Illinois, there is no reason to think that he doesn't make it to the dance this season. He also for the record owns a victory over Johnny Lovett of Central Michigan.  Within the ACC, I think he fights for 3rd place.  He's not beating Austin O'Connor of North Carolina & I think the runner-up here will be Jake Keating of Virginia.  Cleary battles Connor Brady of Virginia Tech and Ed Scott of North Carolina State for that ACC bronze medal. 

Jake Wentzel
Record: 62-30
NCAA: 20'NQ, 21'2nd
ACC: 20'1st, 21'1st
CKLV: 19'R12

Wentzel really stepped it up a notch and wrestled above and beyond, upsetting his way to the NCAA finals last season. With a target the size of Alaska drawn on his back, he's going to have to do the same this season. There are a lot of wrestlers who watched him in the finals last season who thought to themselves, "I beat that guy."  It'll be a real test to the intestinal fortitude of Wentzel to see how he handles that immense pressure.  Even winning a third ACC title will prove challenge for Wentzel as he is 0-3 Vs challenging Thomas Bullard of North Carolina State. Talent and ability wise Wentzel has the tools to be both an ACC and NCAA champion. 

Gregg Harvey
Record: 71-55
NCAA: 20'NQ, 21'NQ
ACC: 18'4th, 20'3rd, 21'4th
CKLV: 18'R12

Harvey is very capable of a 3rd place finish in the ACC championships this season, maybe even a 2nd place finish.  I don't see him defeating Trent Hidlay of North Carolina State, but he did wrestle Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech to a 3-1 decision. He's exchanged 3-2 decisions with Virginia's Michael Battista so at worst I think he'll finish 4th.  NCAA wise? Qualification, 2-2 finish or so. 

Nino Bonaccorsi
Record: 80-20
NCAA: 19'R12, 20'NQ, 21'2nd
ACC: 19'2nd, 20'3rd, 21'1st
MIDLANDS: 18'4th
CKLV: 19'7th

Like Wentzel, Bonaccorsi stepped it up at last year's NCAA's and found himself in the finals. Like Wentzel, this year he comes in with a HUGE target on his back.  With the ACC, ironically enough his biggest challenge will be against freshman Isaac Trumble of North Carolina State who defeated him last season.  Talent and ability wise, Bonaccorsi has the ability to win the ACC's and again make the NCAA finals. 


125 - All American
133 - Champion 
141 - R12
149 - Gonna have to steal a spot but is capable of it for NQ
157 - NQ
165 - Champion 
174 - DNQ
184 - NQ
197 - 2nd

Four All Americans?  The Panthers haven't done that since 1963.  Two national champions? Panthers haven't done that since 1956.  I've been doing some sort of outlook on NCAA wrestling since the 2002-2003 season.  Be it predictions, a weight by weight analysis, a huge overview of every team or for the first time ever this season, a team by team analysis. Every year I get accused of certain things.  I rest assure you I am NOT anti-Minnesota (never fails I ALWAYS get accused of that every season).  Yet, I'm often accused of being big on Pittsburgh.  Well, that I am guilty of.  Why? Because they have a good squad. They're that tough, blue collared team underappreciated within the shadow of Penn State. The tradition, the grit, I do wanna see Pitt do well.