Feb. 4, 2012
PITTSBURGH – After a two-week break from competition, the No. 9 Pitt wrestling team returns to action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when it travels to Morgantown to take on Eastern Wrestling League foe West Virginia.
Saturday’s match will be the 67th meeting between the two teams with the Mountaineers leading the all-time series 33-31-2. Additionally, it will be the 34th meeting between Pitt head coach Rande Stottlemyer and West Virginia head coach Craig Turnbull, who, coincidentally, both started their careers at the rival schools in 1979.
The two longest tenured coaches in the conference have had similar careers. Stottlemyer has racked up an impressive 292 wins, while Turnbull sits at 271. The Mountaineer coach, however, leads the series between the long-time coaches, 17-15-1. But Stottlemyer has had the upper-hand in recent years, winning three of the past four matchups, with the fourth being a 15-15 tie.
Pitt has won 16 straight matches in the EWL and is just two wins away from completing its third straight unbeaten season in the conference. A win over West Virginia would set up a match with No. 21 Edinboro on Feb. 17 that would decide the regular season championship.
The following is a closer look at each potential matchup:
125: No. 16 Anthony Zanetta (Pitt) vs. No. 26 Sane Young (West Virginia)
Former practice partners while wrestling at the same club in high school, these two have been the top two 125-pounders in the conference since their college careers started. The two have squared off in the EWL finals in each of the past two seasons with Zanetta winning both, and this match could be a preview of a third championship matchup. Zanetta has won all four bouts between the two, but the largest margin of victory was three points.
133: No. 20 Shelton Mack (Pitt) vs. No. 24 Nate Pennesi (West Virginia)
Pennesi posted a 5-2 decision over Mack when the two wrestled last season, but Mack may be the most improved wrestler on Pitt’s team. He is pretty much a lock for the national tournament and a win over Pennesi would help solidify that bid, while also improving his seed in the conference tournament. Pennesi just recently made the drop from 141 to 133. Mack has already avenged multiple losses this season and will look to do the same against the Mountaineers.
141: Travis Shaffer (Pitt) vs. No. 32 Michael Morales (West Virginia)
As of now, Shaffer is on the outside looking in at the national rankings and needs every win he can get down the stretch. Regardless, there is no clear favorite at this weight in the EWL, so this is another big match as far as seeding is concerned. Morales has just six matches under his belt after returning from an injury, so conditioning could be pivotal, especially trying to overcome Shaffer’s great top wrestling that wears down opponents.
149: No. 13 Tyler Nauman (Pitt) vs. Brutus Scheffel (West Virginia)
During his time with the Panthers, Nauman has been dominant against West Virginia wrestlers, posting a perfect 3-0 record in dual meets against the Mountaineers. West Virginia wrestlers – or any team for that matter- haven’t gotten the best of Nauman in the postseason either as he has won three conference titles. The redshirt senior is third on both Pitt’s all-time wins and all-time pins list. With his 38 falls, Nauman is just two behind Ryan Tomei (2006-11) for second on the list.
157: Donnie Tasser (Pitt) vs. Dominic Prezzia (West Virginia)
Tasser is another Pitt wrestler that is just outside the national rankings, meaning he can’t afford a loss to another unranked wrestler. Of course, Tasser was in a similar position last year and used a couple of big wins to earn and at-large bid to the national tournament. Both wrestlers have records just above .500, but Tasser is 3-1 in EWL dual meets this season, while Prezzia is 0-3. Two of Tasser’s wins – Frank Hickman (Bloomsburg) and Aaron Fry (Lock Haven) – were losses for Prezzia.
165: No. 33 Tyler Wilps (Pitt) vs. Kyle Eason (West Virginia)
This is the second meeting between these two this season with Wilps winning the first matchup 3-1 at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. That match came during a stretch where Wilps was turning in a lot of low-scoring matches. Since then, he has been more aggressive and putting up more points.
174: No. 26 Ethan Headlee OR P.J. Tasser (Pitt) vs. No. 22 Lance Bryson (West Virginia)
It looks like Headlee will be making his return from an elbow injury, but Pitt will be in good shape either way at this weight as P.J. Tasser has proven to be a reliable starter in the past month. Bryson is currently the higher-ranked wrestler, but Headlee posted a major decision when the two met at the Cliff Keen invitational earlier this season. Bryson has had some good wins, but in addition to the blowout loss to Headlee, he suffered a 6-2 decision to a Division III wrestler in Thiel College’s Jacob Lowry at the Buffalo Open.
184: No. 32 Andy Vaughan (Pitt) vs. No. 20 Matt Ryan (West Virginia)
This may be the most intriguing individual matchup of the night between a pair of senior wrestlers. Vaughan has been on a tear with wins in his last 11 bouts, but hasn’t really had the opportunity to notch a signature win. A victory over Ryan, who enters the match with a record of 13-3 would change that and put Vaughan as the favorite to win the EWL title.
197: No. 4 Matt Wilps (Pitt) vs. Mac Mancuso OR Nicholas Hylton (West Virginia)
Mancuso is the better of the two West Virginia wrestlers with a record of 14-6, but Wilps is the heavy favorite either way. The redshirt junior has tallied bonus points in all four of the Panthers’ conference matches this season and will look to do the same against the Mountaineers.
285: Joel Yahner (Pitt) vs. No. 24 Brandon Williamson (West Virginia)
Yahner will face a tough task against a nationally-ranked wrestler. Williamson is 19-6 overall and 8-1 in dual meets. Yahner, a true freshman, has a rough schedule this season. This will be his seventh nationally-ranked opponent with another two – No. 6 Cameron Wade (Penn State) and No. 23 Ernest James (Edinboro) – still left on the schedule.