Pitt eager to grapple with long-standing rival Penn State on wrestling mat
The rivalry between Pitt and Penn State doesn’t often manifest itself in head-to-head competition, but wrestling is an exception.
Penn State represents Pitt wrestling’s longest-standing rivalry, with Penn State holding a 54-12-3 advantage in the series, including the last four matches. The four-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lions visit Petersen Events Center on Friday, and Pitt senior Tyler Wilps made no secret this week of what he’s looking for from the match.
“I want to beat them probably the most out of any team we’re wrestling this year, personally,” said Oakdale’s Wilps, an All-American last season.
Pitt, ranked No. 16 by Intermat Tournament Power Index, enters the weekend 3-1 after suffering its first loss of the season Saturday to No. 15 Lehigh.
Prior to the match, the Panthers were 3-0 for just the fourth time in the past 11 years.
No. 7 Penn State is 1-0 after beating Lehigh, 24-10, on Nov. 9. They earned a preseason ranking of No. 5 in the nation behind Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa and Cornell. This is the first year Penn State does not have a wrestler ranked first in his weight class since 2011.
The last meeting between Pitt and Penn State was Dec. 8, 2013, in front of an NCAA record crowd of 15,996 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Top-ranked Penn State won 28-9.
Wilps lost to Matt Brown in that match, and if the two get a rematch Friday, Wilps will be facing the No. 3 wrestler in the country in the weight class according to TheOpenMat.com. Wilps is not rated because he has not yet wrestled, but he was a preseason consensus No. 5 at 174 pounds according to several polls.
Pitt junior Nick Bonaccorsi and Penn State junior Morgan McIntosh’s rematch at 197 pounds also is highly anticipated. The two met last year when Bonaccorsi was unranked and McIntosh was fourth in the nation. McIntosh won in a 4-3 tiebreaker.
“I lost in overtime last year, so individually I’m really looking forward to wrestling the same opponent again,” said Bonaccorsi of Bethel Park, ranked seventh in the country. “It’s an instate rivalry. Every match is going to be a brawl. We don’t like losing to them, and I’m sure they’re not going to like losing to us. It’s going to be tight.”
Another highlight match will be at 149 pounds between Pitt sophomore Mikey Racciato, ranked 13th, and Penn State sophomore Zack Beitz, ranked 14th.
The last time Pitt hosted Penn State at Fitzgerald Field House, the teams drew a sold-out crowd of 3,247. They are expecting as many as 7,000 fans at the Pete on Friday, which they believe will set a Pitt home dual record.
Pitt coach Jason Peters said his team takes pride in wanting to beat Penn State because of the level of success they’ve achieved, but he hopes to approach it like any other match.
“You have to be aware that they have good people, but you really have to get out and do what you do best,” Peters said. “I don’t think we did that last week (against Lehigh), so this week we’re really trying to focus on what each individual does well and take that on the mat, regardless of your opponent.”