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Pitt wrestles back into spotlight |

Pitt wrestles back into spotlight

Jason Mackey
| Saturday, November 26, 2011 12:00 a.m

Pitt wrestling coach Rande Stottlemyer wasn’t the least bit surprised. Nor were any of his wrestlers.

After all, given the offseason work the Panthers had put in, knocking off two top-10 programs in the season’s first two weeks was something the team expected — even if it might’ve surprised, well, pretty much everyone else.

Pitt upset No. 6 Lehigh, 18-16, on Nov. 12 — snapping the Mountain Hawks’ 26-match home winning streak — and then shocked No. 6 Michigan, 19-13, in its home opener at Fitzgerald Field House a week later.

The wins vaulted Pitt to No. 9 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today poll. They’re in the top 10 for the first time since 1963.

“I don’t think any of the guys doubted that we could do something like that,” Stottlemyer said. “Our attitude from the beginning has been that we could win those matches.”

Although Stottlemyer has been with Pitt for more than 30 years, the past few seasons have represented a significant step forward. Pitt won its first Eastern Wrestling League tournament championship last fall and has finished undefeated in conference dual meets during the regular season each of the past two years.

“It’s been an evolution,” Stottlemyer said. “We’ve gotten better and better, and now we’ve kind of exploded on the scene.”

The biggest reason for the success, Stottlemyer said, has come from a renewed emphasis on offseason workouts — that is, wrestlers actually doing them — and from the work of his assistant coaches, Jason Peters and Matt Kocher.

“There was a time when a lot of kids would want summers off,” Stottlemyer said. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”

Pitt, which returns to the mat Dec. 2 for the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, has several locals in its lineup. Junior Anthony Zanetta (Keystone Oaks) posted wins at 125 pounds against Lehigh and Michigan. So did freshman Travis Shaffer (Derry) at 141 and junior Matt Wilps (Chartiers Valley) at 197.

Heavyweight Zac Thomusseit sealed the Michigan upset with a 3-1 victory when he registered a takedown in overtime.

“We’ve been working hard,” Stottlemyer said. “Not that we didn’t work hard in previous years, but things have started to fall into place for us now.”

One final lap

The West Virginia women’s cross country team earned its fourth top-10 finish in the past five years by taking eighth in Monday’s Division I national championship race in Terre Haute, Ind.

Senior Kate Harrison (eighth) was the team’s top finisher with an All-America 6K time of 19 minutes, 50 seconds. Penn State placed 13th, and Caitlin Lane also achieved All-America status by finishing 10th (20:04).

California (Pa.) sophomore Aaron Dinzeo finished 20th in 31:45 in the 10K to earn Division II All-America status. Allegheny junior Bobby Over was 17th in Division III at 24:35 in the 8K. Carnegie Mellon junior Emily Wobb (Pine-Richland) was 16th in the Division III women’s 6K at 21:25.

Around the district

Clarion men’s basketball coach Ron Righter, a 26-year veteran, posted his 400th victory with Sunday’s 65-63 win at East Stroudsburg. … St. Vincent senior forward Brittany Sedlock, the defending Presidents’ Athletic Conference Player of the Year, scored her 1,000th point during Saturday’s 67-62 win at Messiah College. … Penn State’s Kelsey Amy was selected to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I All-America team. The junior forward tied for first in the Big Ten in goals (25) and points (57), and the Nittany Lions (17-6) reached the NCAA quarterfinals.

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