ACC Preview: How Pitt can win a team title

ACC Preview: How Pitt can win a team title

Sunday will go a long way in determining how this Pitt wrestling team will be remembered.

Yes, the Panthers won a share of the ACC dual meet championship, but the official conference title is decided at the ACC Tournament, which will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Sunday. If coach Keith Gavin’s team wrestles like it did against Virginia Tech and Iowa State, the Panthers could bring home a team title. If they look like they did against West Virginia and Maryland, they might be struggling to finish third.

As important as the team standings are, the real goal is to qualify as many wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as possible. If all goes as seeded – and it never does – the Panthers would get six automatic qualifiers.

Pitt has four top seeds – twice as many as any other team – but the Panthers are projected to finish behind North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Micky Phillippi, Cole Matthews, Holden Heller and Nino Bonaccorsi are all favorites, but none is considered a lock. Phillippi and Matthews often wrestle low-scoring matches that make them prime targets for upsets, and Bonaccorsi could face North Carolina State’s Isaac Trumble in the finals. They have split four career matches, although Nino has won the past two. Heller hasn’t lost to anyone in his bracket, but at 12-5 this season, he’s flown under the national radar.

Colton Camacho could be the key to Pitt’s tournament. The 125-pounder needs to reach the finals to earn an automatic spot at the NCAA championships. If he can beat Virginia’s Patrick McCormick in the quarterfinal round and upset top-seeded Jarrett Trombley of North Carolina State in the semifinals, Pitt could make it a three-team race for the conference title.

Dazjon “Cheez” Casto was a blood-round guy at the NCAA Tournament last year after bumping off returning national champion Austin O’Connor of North Carolina. O’Connor was limited by injury then, and it’s hard to see Casto, who as struggled to a 6-7 mark this season, repeating that. It’s also hard to envision him getting past either Ed Scott or Bryce Andonian for a spot in Tulsa.

Reece Heller is harder to project. He’s 1-3 against the bracket, with one of those wins coming by fall over second-seeded Hunter Bolen of Virginia Tech. Heller’s dangerous and very capable of springing and upset or two. Thankfully, he only needs to place fifth to qualify.

Luca Augustine could be key as well. The redshirt freshman has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season, but he’s also shown a disturbing tendency to get caught flat-footed in big moments, often in overtime or at the end of a tight match. If he can keep his concentration level high for seven minutes or more, he’s got the talent to beat everyone in his weight not named Mekhi Lewis.

Jake Slinger is a dark horse at heavyweight as the fourth seed after only wrestling one conference dual this season. He’s just 1-6 against his bracket, but has wrestled tight matches against North Carolina’s Brandon Whitman, who he has in the first round, and Duke’s Jonah Niesenbaum, who he would face in the semifinal round if he gets there. It’s actually a much better path for him than if he was in the bottom half of the bracket.

Tyler Badgett is the other Pitt wrestler projected to miss out on an automatic bid. He’s wrestled much better this season, but he still needs to step up on Sunday. He’s 1-3 against the bracket, and his quarterfinal match is no gimme. North Carolina’s Zach Sherman is just 4-3, which is why he’s seeded fifth, but he’s a four-time NCAA qualifier who placed seventh in 2021. If healthy – and that’s a big if – he could present a major obstacle for Badgett’s hopes.

At least one – and probably two – of those six will need to place higher than their seed in order for Pitt to win a team title, and the four favorites need to win titles and pick up some bonus points along the way.

ACC Tournament

Where: Raleigh, N.C.

When: 11 a.m. Sunday

How to watch: ACC Network Extra/ACC Network

Sessions:

11 a.m.: Quarterfinals (2 mats)

1 p.m.: Semifinals (2 mats)

3:30 p.m.: Consolation semifinals (2 mats)

5 p.m.: Consolation Finals (1 mat)

7 p.m.: Championships (1 mat on ACC Network)

125 Colton Camacho

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Record: 15-8/44-24

Seed: 4th

Automatic qualifiers: 2

Record against bracket: 3-3

Quarterfinal opponent: Patrick McCormick (UVA) 2-1

· W 14-1 1/20/23 (Dual)

· L 2-1 2/28/22 (ACC Tournament)

· W 4-2 1/29/22 (Dual)

Top half of bracket: Jarrett Trombley (NC State) 0-1

· L 11-8 2/10/23 (Dual)

Others:

Jack Wagner (UNC) 0-1

· W 10-8 (SV) 2/3/23 (Dual)

Ethan Grimminger (Duke) 1-0

· W Fall 2/18/23 (Dual)

Eddie Ventresca (VT) 0-0

Prediction: 3rd

133 Micky Phillippi

Year: Super senior

Record: 12-2/128-29

Seed: 1st

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 6-1

Semifinal opponent:

Marlon Yarbrough (UVA) 1-0

· W 7-3 1/20/23 (Dual)

OR

Jace Palmer (UNC) 1-0

· W 8-2 2/3/23 (Dual)_

Others:

Sam Latona (VT) 1-0

· W 3-2 (TB-2) 1/27/23 (Dual)

Kai Orine (NC State) 2-1

· L 2-1 (TB-1) 2/10/23 (Dual)

· W 4-1 2/11/22 (Dual)

· W 10-1 1/1/22 (Southern Scuffle)

Logan Agin (Duke) 1-0

· W Fall 2/18/23 (Dual)

Prediction: 1st

141 Cole Matthews

Year: Redshirt junior

Record: 17-1/86-25

Seed: 1st

Automatic qualifiers: 4

Record against bracket: 5-0

Semifinal opponent:

Dylan Cedeno (UVA) 0-0

OR

Tom Crook (VT) 1-0

· W 6-2 1/27/23 (Dual)

Others:

Ryan Jack (NC State) 3-0

· W 4-2 2/10/23 (Dual)

· W 3-2 3/6/22 (ACC Tournament)

· W 3-1 2/11/22 (Dual)

Lachlan McNeil (UNC) 1-0

· W 3-2 2/3/23 (Dual)

Jared Papscy (Duke) 0-0

Prediction: 1st

149 Tyler Badgett

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Record: 16-10/29-21

Seed: 4th

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 1-3

Quarterfinal opponent:

Zach Sherman (UNC) 0-0

Top half of bracket:

Caleb Henson (VT) 0-1

· L 14-2 1/27/23 (Dual)

Others:

Jarod Verkleeren (UVA) 0-1

· L 5-3 1/20/23 (Dual)

Patrick Rowland (Duke) 1-0

· W 8-3 2/18/23

Jackson Arrington (NC State) 0-1

· L 4-0 2/10/23

Prediction: DNP

157 Dazjon Casto

Year: Redshirt senior

Record: 6-7/88-51

Seed: 4th

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 4-3

Quarterfinal opponent:

Jake Keating (UVA) 2-1

· W 14-8 1/20/23 (Dual)

· W Fall 3/17/22 (NCAA Tournament)

· L 6-5 1/2/21 (Dual)

Top half of bracket:

Austin O’Connor (UNC) 1-0

· W 8-2 (SV) 3/17/22 (NCAA Tournament)

Others:

Bryce Andonian (VT) 0-1

· L 14-1 1/27/23 (Dual)

Ed Scott (NC State) 0-1

· L 20-3 2/10/23 (Dual)

Logan Ferrero (Duke) 1-0

· W 10-0 2/18/23 (Dual)

Prediction: DNP

165 Holden Heller

Year: Redshirt junior

Record: 12-5/57-37

Seed: 1st

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 5-0

Semifinal opponent:

Joey Mazzara (UNC) 1-0

· W 12-5 2/3/23 (Dual)

OR

Connor Brady (VT) 1-0

· W 2-0 1/27/23 (Dual)

Others:

Matthew Singleton (NC State) 1-0

· W 5-2 2/10/23 (Dual)

Gabe Dinette (Duke) 1-0

· W 6-3 2/10/23 (Dual)

Justin McCoy (Virginia) 1-0

· W 9-3 1/20/23 (Dual)

Prediction: 2nd

174 Luca Augustine

Year: Redshirt freshman

Record: 13-8/25/13

Seed: 3rd

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 1-2

Semifinal opponent:

Alex Faison (NC State) 0-1

· L 3-1 (SV) 2/10/23 (Dual)

Others:

Mekhi Lewis (VT) 0-1

· L 14-4 1/27/23 (Dual)

Victor Marcelli (UVA) 1-0

· W 4-1 1/20/23 (Dual)

Michael Goldfeder (UNC) 0-0

Prediction: 2nd

184 Reece Heller

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Record: 16-6/19-13

Seed: 5th

Automatic qualifiers: 5

Record against bracket: 1-3

Quarterfinal opponent:

Neil Antrassian (UVA) 0-1

· L 8-3 1/20/23 (Dual)

Top half of bracket:

Trent Hidlay (NC State) 0-1

· L 9-5 2/10/23 (Dual)

Others:

Gavin Kane (UNC) 0-1

· L 6-3 2/3/23 (Dual)

Jack Wimmer (Duke) 0-0

· W Fall 2/18/23 (Dual)

Hunter Bolen (VT) 1-0

· W Fall 1/27/23 (Dual)

Prediction: 4th

197 Nino Bonaccorsi

Year: Super senior

Record: 14-0/112-25

Seed: 1st

Automatic qualifiers: 4

Record against bracket: 12-2

Semifinal opponent:

Vincent Baker (Duke) 1-0

· W 18-2 2/18/23 (Dual)

OR

Michael Battista (UVA) 4-0

· W 7-4 1/20/23 (Dual)

· W 14-4 3/8/20 (ACC Tournament)

· W 19-7 2/7/20 (Dual)

· W 12-2 3/25/19 (National Collegiate Open)

Others:

Isaac Trumble (NC State) 2-2

· W 6-5 (TB-1) 2/10/23 (Dual)

· W 5-2 3/6/22 (ACC Tournament)

· L 2-0 2/11/22 (Dual)

· L 6-1 1/22/21 (Dual)

Max Shaw (UNC) 3-0

· W 8-2 2/3/23 (Dual)

· W 7-1 2/4/22 (Dual)

· W 9-3 2/5/21 (Dual)

Andy Smith (VT) 2-0

· W 3-1 1/27/23 (Dual)

· W 8-1 2/12/21 (Dual)

Prediction: 1st

285

Year: Senior

Record: 8-7/39-45

Seed: 4th

Automatic qualifiers: 3

Record against bracket: 1-6

Quarterfinal opponent:

Brandon Whitman (UNC) 0-3

· L 3-2 3/6/22 (ACC Tournament)

· L 4-3 2/4/22 (Dual)

· L 3-1 2/5/21 (Dual)

Top half of bracket:

Jonah Niesenbaum (Duke) 1-2

· L 5-3 2/18/23 (Dual)

· L 3-2 2/18/22 (Dual)

· W 5-1 1/16/21 (Dual extra)

Others:

Hunter Catka (VT) 0-1

· L 12-4 2/12/23 (Dual extra)

Ethan Weatherspoon (UVA) 0-0

Owen Trephan (NC State) 0-0

Team prediction: 3rd

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