March 17, 2012
SAINT LOUIS - Pitt wrapped up competition at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday, finishing 15th with two All-Americans in front of a record-breaking crowd of 18,919. Matt Wilps closed out his season with a fourth-place finish at 197 pounds, while Tyler Nauman ended his illustrious career with the Panthers with a fifth-place showing at 149.
Wilps, a junior, was close to being in the championship finals, but dropped an overtime decision to No. 2 Chris Honeycutt in the semifinals. He bounced back with a 3-2 decision over No. 9 Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming) before losing a close 3-2 decision to No. 5 Cale Byers (Oklahoma State) in the consolation finals.
It was the first All-American honor for Wilps in his second appearance at the national tournament. Both wrestlers who finished ahead of him - Honeycutt and Cam Simaz (Cornell) - are seniors.
Wilps finishes the season 34-5, and recently notched the 100th win in his career with his victory over Honeycutt in the finals of the Eastern Wrestling League Tournament. The 34 wins are the fifth most all-time by a Pitt junior in one season.
Nauman finished the season 30-6 and became a two-time All-American for the Panthers, ending one of the best careers in Pitt wrestling history. With his career record of 140-31, he is third all-time at Pitt in wins. Thirty-nine of those wins came by fall, which is also third all-time.
Like Wilps, Nauman came up just short of earning a spot in the national finals. In his 8-5 loss to Minnesota's Dylan Ness in the semifinals, the score was tied 5-5 late, but knowing Ness had a point for riding time locked up, Nauman had to go for the score. He gave up a late takedown in an 8-5 loss.
Following a loss to No. 4 Donald Vinson in the consolation semifinals, Nauman got the chance to end his great career with a victory, something only a handful of wrestlers are able to do. He took advantage of the opportunity with a 4-3 decision over Hofstra's Justin Accordino.
Penn State easily won the team title, clinching first-place before the finals had even started. It was the second straight national championship for the Nittany Lions.
The three-day attendance total was also a new record for the event. The six sessions combined for 112,393 fans.