Jan. 23, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The No. 13 Virginia wrestling team faces its stiffest dual-meet challenge of the season when it visits eighth-ranked Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. Friday at Fitzgerald Field House in a matchup of the final two unbeaten squads in ACC play. Virginia (13-2, 2-0 ACC) and Pitt (9-1, 3-0) are wrestling for the first time since the Panthers joined the ACC, while UVa is making its first-ever trip to Pitt.
Virginia scored a pair of road dual wins last week, taking down Duke (30-6) and Old Dominion (20-12) on Friday and Sunday, respectively. UVa now has won six straight duals and recorded the fourth-most dual wins in a season in program history.
UVa currently boasts seven wrestlers who are ranked by at least one of the major national publications, including second-ranked Nick Sulzer (R-Jr., Cleveland, Ohio) at 165 pounds. Sulzer is 24-1 this year, with 18 of his wins resulting in bonus points (two falls, four tech falls, 12 major decisions).
New to the rankings this week is Zach Nye (R-So., Enola, Pa.) at No. 19 in the Amateur Wrestling News rankings. Nye won a pair of bouts last week and now is 14-6 on the season, including five straight victories and a 7-2 record since the start of the new year. Also ranked: Joe Spisak (R-Jr., Boiling Springs, Pa.) at 141, Gus Sako (R-Jr., Cleveland, Ohio) at 149, Blaise Butler (R-So., Belvidere, Ill.) at 157, Stephen Doty (R-Sr., St. Louis, Mo.) at 174 and Jon Fausey (R-Sr., Dalmatia, Pa.) at 184.
The rare trip to Pennsylvania also makes for a homecoming of sorts for several of the Cavalier wrestlers, who will have plenty of supporters in the stands. UVa's roster features seven wrestlers from Pennsylvania and five from Ohio - of those 12, seven potentially could be in the lineup Friday evening.
The UVa-Pitt match could feature up to a dozen ranked wrestlers, including potential matchups of ranked foes at 141, 174, 184 and 197 pounds.
While UVa and Pitt are new conference rivals, the programs have competed against one another just once previously, with the Panthers earning a 21-15 win over UVa on Nov. 27, 2010, in Troy, N.Y. That bout featured seven wrestlers who could wrestle Friday: UVa's Joe Spisak (141), Gus Sako (149) and Jon Fausey (184), Pitt's Anthony Zanetta (125), Shelton Mack (133), P.J. Tasser (285) and Max Thomusseit (184).
Pitt is the sixth currently-ranked team that Virginia has faced this season, but also the highest ranked of those squads. UVa also has wrestled No. 14 Edinboro (W, 20-19), No. 17 Virginia Tech (W, 19-16), No. 19 Wisconsin (L, 19-17), No. 20 Lehigh (L, 19-14) and No. 22 Chattanooga (W, 18-13). UVa also has twice defeated Kent State, which is the first team out of the rankings.
Pitt is coming off one of the biggest wins in program history, a 19-18 home triumph over then-No. 5 Oklahoma State last Sunday. The dual came down to the final bout, where P.J. Tasser scored an upset win at heavyweight to tie the match at 18, with the Panthers claiming the tiebreaker point on the second criteria to earn the dual win. For his efforts, Tasser was tabbed the ACC Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday.
Pitt's lone loss this season came at No. 1 Penn State in front of a record crowd of 15,996 at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Panthers have five ranked wrestlers in their probable lineup, highlighted by No. 7 Max Thomusseit at 184 and No. 7 Tyler Wilps at 174.
Virginia continues its ACC slate next Friday (Jan. 31) when it returns home to face Maryland in a 7 p.m. dual at Memorial Gymnasium. The Cavaliers also will wrestle Bucknell at 2 p.m. the following Sunday (Feb. 2). There is no admission charge to home UVa matches at Mem Gym.
No. 13 Virginia (13-2, 2-0 ACC)
125: Nick Herrmann (12-5)
133: Joseph Martinez (9-11)
141: No. 12/16 Joe Spisak (15-8)
157: No. 15/15 Blaise Butler (12-6)
165: No. 2/2 Nick Sulzer (24-1)
174: No. 17/12 Stephen Doty (20-6)
184: No. -/20 Jon Fausey (12-5)
197: No. 19/- Zach Nye (14-6)
285: Ethan Hayes (13-10) or Collin Campbell (3-5)
No. 8 Pittsburgh (9-1, 3-0 ACC)
125: Anthony Zanetta (15-6)
133: No. 17/17 Shelton Mack (19-6) or Derrick Nelson (7-4)
141: No. 16/19 Edgar Bright (13-5) or Jake Keller (7-8)
149: Mikey Racciato (19-7)
157: Eric Nutter (12-7) or Cole Sheptock (10-12)
165: Geno Morelli (9-10)
174: No. 7/7 Tyler Wilps (20-5)
184: No. 7/6 Max Thomusseit (10-1)
197: No. 20/18 Nick Bonaccorsi (14-9)
285: P.J. Tasser (12-5) or Mike Gregory (7-8)