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NCAA wrestling notebook: Pitt's Wilps claims 3rd place

Pitt's Matthew Wilps (left) controls Penn State's Quentin Wright during their 197-pound semifinal round match at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships, Friday, March 22, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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By Scott Brown
Saturday, March 23, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A disappointing double-overtime loss in the 197-pound semifinals Friday night didn't stop Matt Wilps from finishing strong at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

The Pitt senior dominated two opponents Saturday en route to a third-place finish.

Wilps, a Chartiers Valley graduate, improved on his fourth-place finish from 2012 while becoming the 18th two-time All-American at Pitt.

Not bad for someone who didn't win a state title in high school and wasn't sure he could become an elite college wrestler when he arrived at Pitt.

“I thought it was maybe unrealistic to be an All-American,” Wilps said. “I really just hammered through the training and I focused more on wrestling than I expected I would, and it paid off.”

A couple of seconds of riding time cost Wilps a chance to wrestle for a national title, but he bounced back from a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Penn State's Quentin Wright. He capped his career with a second-period technical fall (18-2) over Oregon State's Taylor Meeks.

Wilps, who will graduate this spring with degrees in economics and psychology, said he is not sure whether he will pursue wrestling beyond college. He is leaving his options open, and that includes coaching.

The future, though, could wait as Wilps stood in a tunnel at Wells Fargo Arena and reflected on a career that included 129 wins, fifth most in Pitt history.

“I exceeded my expectations,” said Wilps, whose younger brother, Tyler, also wrestled in the NCAA tournament. “It feels good to end my career with a win.”

Other local All-Americans

Pitt 285-pounder Zac Thomusseit joined Wilps, his training partner, in winning the final match of his career and garnering All-American honors. The fifth-year senior beat Central Michigan's Jarod Trice, 3-1, following an earlier loss in the placement round to finish fifth.

Other local wrestlers who left Des Moines as All-Americans included Edinboro's A.J. Schopp (fourth place at 133 pounds), North Carolina's Evan Henderson (sixth at 141) and Clarion's James Fleming (eighth at 157).

Fleming, a two-time All-American, is a West Mifflin graduate. Henderson is a Kiski Prep graduate.

School pride

Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio, could be included among the winners at the NCAA tournament.

Four of its five graduates who wrestled here claimed All-American honors, led by Penn State's David Taylor, who recorded four pins while rolling to the 165-pound finals. Thomusseit and Virginia Tech's Zach Neibert (eighth at 133) and Nick Brascetta (eighth at 141) also finished in the top eight of their respective weight classes.

The fifth Graham product in the field, Pitt redshirt sophomore Max Thomusseit, came up just short in his bid to become an All-American.

The younger Thomusseit went 2-2, with a 4-2 loss to Missouri's Mike Larson on Friday night ending his tournament. A victory over Larson would have guaranteed no worse than an eighth-place finish.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.

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