TULSA, Okla.— Pitt saw two of his top redshirt senior wrestlers Cole Matthews and Nino Bonaccorsi reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center on Thursday night.
Matthews (21-1) won a narrow 1-0 decision over 14th-placed Northern Iowa’s Cael Happel (17-7) in a third-period breakout in the Round of 16. He faced plenty of attacks from Happel but fended them off and held on for the slim victory at 141 pounds.
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CM141 👏 @ColeMatthews9
2023 NCAA Quarter Finalist 🏆#H2P » @NCAAWrestling pic.twitter.com/LF7m2GbKoB
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) March 17, 2023
“I think his plan was to tire me out and knock me down,” Matthews said during his match with Happel. “I thought he was going to try to tire me out, fight me in the hand fight, but I stayed pretty confident, pretty loose in the hand fight. I think I did just enough to get the win.
Matthews also found it perplexing that Happel didn’t start low to try and break away in the second period. He said Happel doing this made it easier for him, as he just needed to get away in the third period, which he did, and just play defense for most of the game to get the win.
No. 1 Bonaccorsi (18-0) stuck with what he knows best, as he made four eliminations in an 8-2 decision against North Dakota State No. 16 Owen Pentz. (18-8) in the round of 16.
2023 NCAA Quarter Finalist 🏆
Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi 👏 @NeenBon#H2P » @NCAAWrestling pic.twitter.com/18F4cpkck0
— Pitt Wrestling (@Pitt_WRES) March 17, 2023
After the match, Bonaccorsi explained how he kept it simple, stuck to what he knew best and didn’t make any match bigger than it was. This is his fifth time competing in the NCAA championships, Bonaccorsi said his experience has prepared him to face opponents and pressure in a good way.
“In these tournaments it’s easy for guys to get caught up in the outside, the fans, the atmosphere, the pressure,” Bonaccorsi said. “I think that’s what you often see in these early rounds. “I think the reason I’ve been able to wrestle as well as I’ve wrestled is just to forget all about the outside. It’s just another game. We do it every day in matches, duels, training. So there is nothing new there. Just wrestle like it’s any other match.
No. 9 redshirt senior Micky Phillippi (14-4) suffered a tough round of 16 loss at 133 pounds. Minnesota No. 8 Aaron Nagao (20-4) caught him off guard on an attack and pinned him at 2:50 into the first period.
Aaron Nagao is this 𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐓 𝐃𝐔𝐃𝐄!😤😤
He defeats Micky Phillippi in the first period and he has an appointment with RBY in the quarter-finals tomorrow!#GopherTough // #SkiUMah pic.twitter.com/hcOi0GQMOe
– Minnesota Wrestling (@GopherWrestling) March 16, 2023
This loss prevents Phillippi from winning a national title during his long college career. He will move on to Consolations to try and earn a high ranking on his final two days of wrestling for Pitt.
Senior Redshirt No. 20 Holden Heller (15-7) also lost his round of 16 match at 165 pounds. Holden Heller started with a strikeout, but Michigan State’s No. 29 Caleb Fish (28-9) made a strikeout and collected points en route to winning a 7-2 decision.
All smiles 😃 Let’s keep rolling
Caleb Fish progresses again with a win over #20 Heller of Pitt! #GoGreen | #SpartanStrong pic.twitter.com/Rph04cCq5s
— Spartan Wrestling (@MSU_Wrestling) March 17, 2023
No. 16 redshirt junior Reece Heller (19-9) rebounded from a tough round of 16 pin loss to Lehigh’s Tate Samuelson (22-8) with a victory in the consolation rounds. He got revenge on No. 33 WVU redshirt junior Anthony Carman (18-15) at 184 pounds, with an 11-4 decision.
Carman defeated Heller in a 7-2 decision at Fitzgerald Field House on January 8. Heller also pinned Carman in the semi-finals of the Midlands Championships en route to his title at 184lbs in late December.
No. 28 redshirt freshman Luca Augustine (15-11) lost another close game in the consolation rounds at 174 pounds. Colorado No. 21 Lennox Wolak (20-1) won a 3-1 decision, with a crucial takedown to seal the victory.
Augustine’s loss made him the first Pitt wrestler to retire from the NCAA Championships. Head coach Keith Gavin spoke about Augustine, praising him for staying in all of his games, but also emphasizing his need to develop a more clinical offense this offseason.
“He needs that go-to offense,” Panthers head coach Keith Gavin said after the Augustine game. “It’s not going to be out of a scramble. He has a good under hook. He has a good front headlock. He had the last guy’s leg a few times, but he needs to work on that finish a bit. His area of focus in the summer is pretty clear.
Pitt will fight again Friday morning at 12 p.m. EST in the quarterfinals and consolations. Stay tuned for coverage of Pittsburgh Sports Now de Pitt wrestling for the NCAA championships the next two days.
Here’s Pitt’s schedule for Friday morning.
141-No. 3 Cole Matthews vs. PSU #6 Beau Bartlett
197-No. 1 Nino Bonaccorsi against. No. 8 NEB Silas Allred
133-No. 9 Micky Phillippi vs. No. 23 Iowa Brody Teske
184-No. 16 Reece Heller vs. No. 18 Rutgers Brian Soldano
165-No. 20 Holden Heller vs. No. 14 WVU Payton Hall
Pitt is currently No. 25 in team scoring at the NCAA championships, tied with Maryland at No. 25 with 7.5 points.
Pitt sends four wrestlers to round of 16 at NCAA Wrestling Championships