March 16, 2012
SAINT LOUIS – Pitt wrestlers Tyler Nauman and Matt Wilps both saw their chances at a national title this season come up short at the NCAA Division I National Championships on Friday night. Still, both are guaranteed be All-Americans thanks to three wins apiece in the winner’s bracket.
For Nauman, it will be his second All-American honor in three years, as he will attempt to improve on his fifth-place finish in 2010. A win in the consolation semifinals against No. 4 Donnie Vinson (Binghamton) tomorrow would put him in the match for third place, but even with a loss he can do no worse than sixth.
Nauman cruised through his first three opponents, never trailing in any of the matches, but fell behind early to No. 7 Dylan Ness (Minnesota) in the semifinals. He came back to tie it 5-5 late in the match, but Ness had a point on the way for riding time and sealed it with a takedown in a 8-5 decision.
Wilps is in the same situation as Nauman after his overtime loss to No. 2 Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro) in the semifinals. It was the fourth match of the season between the two, with Honeycutt winning three. Wilps handed the Fighting Scot wrestler his only loss of the season in the finals of the Eastern Wrestling League Tournament.
It was the second overtime match of the tournament for Wilps. He pinned No. 6 Brent Haynes (Missouri) in the quarterfinals to ensure his first All-American status, but gave up the match-clinching takedown to Honeycutt in the semis.
Wilps will take on Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez in the consolation semifinals tomorrow. He beat the Cowboy wrestler 5-3 in the consolation finals of the Cliff Keen Invitational earlier this season.
Aside from the individual accolades already coming their way, Nauman and Wilps can still help Pitt achieve its goal of finishing in the top-10 at the NCAA Tournament. Heading into the final day of competition, the Panthers are in 18th place with 30 points, but just 3.5 points separates them from 10th-place Michigan.
Anthony Zanetta, Shelton Mack and Ethan Headlee saw their hopes of becoming All-Americans come to an end with losses in the consolation bracket. Zanetta and Mack came up one win short, while Headlee finished 2-2 in the tournament.
Zanetta, who knocked off No. 3 Alan Waters (Missouri) earlier in the tournament, was eliminated by No. 12 Steve Bonanno (Hofstra). Zanetta jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead with two early takedowns, but eventually lost 10-4 in overtime.
Mack won his first two matches on Friday before falling to No. 10 Chris Dardanes (Minnesota). It was the first national tournament appearance for Mack, and the sophomore finished 3-2.
Headlee’s career at Pitt came to a close with his overtime loss to No.11 Justin Zeerip (Michigan), but it was a solid five years with the Panthers. During that time, he qualified for four national tournaments and finished with 98 career wins, while also cracking the top-10 on the progam’s all-time pins list.