Pitt wrestler Wilps confident he can win elusive national title
By Scott Brown
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
A team photo from Rande Stottlemyre's first year as Pitt's head coach could double as a mirror for Panthers wrestler Matt Wilps.
That is how closely fifth-year senior resembles his father Jeff, who was a member of Stottlemyre's first team almost 35 years ago.
“It's pretty scary looking at that photo,” the younger Wilps said with a laugh.
He would love nothing more to add a photo of him standing atop an awards podium in Des Moines, Iowa, to Stottlemyre's album. And Wilps is the leading national championship contender among the eight Panthers who qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will be held March 21-23.
The Chartiers Valley graduate crafted a pair of one-point victories Saturday to capture the Eastern Wrestling League title at 197 pounds, and Wilps should enter the NCAA tournament as no worse than the No. 3 seed. That puts him on a collision course with former Penn State national champion Quentin Williams — the two pinned each other in two earlier meetings this season — and on a track to win the only thing that has eluded him during his decorated college career.
Stottlemyre said Wilps is ready to build on the fourth-place finish from a year ago at 184 pounds when he earned All-American honors.
“Mostly because he thinks he can,” Stottlemyre said when asked why Wilps can win a national championship. “That's the hardest thing because when you try and put your arms around it sometimes it's kind of tough to figure, but he's pretty focused.”
“I've worked hard enough for it. I'm athletic enough,” Wilps said after winning a third consecutive EWL title. “I have the moves, and the whole coaching staff and my family believes in me.”
The line between coaching staff and family sometimes may seem a little blurred to Wilps considering how steeped wrestling is in the latter.
Wilps' younger brother and teammate, Tyler, will join him at NCAAs after finishing second in the EWL tournament at 165 pounds. And the youngest of the three brothers, Noah, placed for Chartiers Valley at 170 pounds in the PIAA tournament over the weekend in Hershey.
Noah Wilps could well follow his father and brothers to Pitt and have something to shoot for literally and figuratively.
Matt Wilps is one victory shy of the 125-win milestone, and his development is a major reason why Pitt dominated the EWL the last three years.
“He started on heart and strength and now he's gained a lot more technique,” Panthers assistant coach Matt Kocher said. “I think his best quality is he's savvy. He never gets rattled. He knows how to win.”
He proved as much in his EWL championship match.
Bloomsburg's Richard Perry took a 4-3 lead late in the third period with a reversal, but Wilps calmly worked himself free for a one-point escape. He added another point due to a rideout and beat Perry, 5-4.
Now it is on to the NCAA tournament where Wilps' ability to win close matches will be vital as he shoots for a national championship.
“I'm always going to try and win in little positions,” Wilps said, “and when it comes to crunch time I'm going to do what it takes to win.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.