Pitt's wrestling team pulls off upset of No. 5 Oklahoma State
By Jason Mackey
Published: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 4:48 p.m.
PJ Tasser got his wish.
In the process, the Pitt wrestling team scored a 19-18 upset of fifth-ranked Oklahoma State on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,921 fans at Fitzgerald Field House.
Tasser, a Belle Vernon graduate and the 13th-ranked Panthers' heavyweight, eagerly anticipated the atmosphere created by the arrival of the Cowboys, who've won 34 NCAA Division I national titles.
There was no more satisfying moment for Tasser — or Pitt — than when he scored an overtime takedown of No. 14 Austin Marsden near the Pitt bench, sealing a 3-1 win.
First-year head coach Jason Peters yelled and pointed. Teammates jumped out of their seats. Tasser pumped both fists in the air while walking to the center of the mat.
Because Pitt had one more pin than Oklahoma State, the Panthers took the dual meet on criteria.
“Usually you can't hear much in your headgear,” Tasser said. “But to hear our fans, our crowd … they were with us.
“There were so many people here, and it felt awesome to be able to pull that out.”
Oklahoma State (4-4) becomes the highest seed the Panthers (9-1) have beaten since at least 1999-2000, as far back as team records can be traced, Pitt assistant director of media relations Matt Haas said.
Pitt's next ACC match is Friday at home against No. 12 Virginia.
A year ago, Oklahoma State topped the Panthers, 26-14, in Stillwater, Okla. Yet Pitt, which won its last four bouts to post a similar comeback win over Lehigh on Nov. 22, 2013, never flinched.
“When we talked before the match started, we talked about winning,” Peters said. “We're probably the only group in the whole area that thought we could win. Here we are, the match is over, and we won.”
Oklahoma State coach John Smith was unavailable for comment after the match.
No. 20 Edgar Bright posted a 10-5 win over 12th-ranked Anthony Collica at 141 pounds, and unranked Mikey Racciato gave the Panthers a 9-7 lead when he pinned No. 8 Josh Kindig in 1:23 at 149.
Racciato, who improved to 19-7, was equally moved by Sunday's atmosphere.
“This was the first time when we wrestled here I can honestly say that it felt like home,” Racciato said. “It was loud. The fans were knowledgeable. That helps. It gets in the other kids' heads.”
Pitt dropped the three bouts following Racciato's pin before bouncing back, one of them a near upset of defending national champion in No. 2 Chris Perry.
Despite leading throughout, Pitt's eighth-ranked 174-pounder, Tyler Wilps, was called for stalling late in his match against Perry, sending it to overtime. Wilps, a Chartiers Valley graduate, eventually lost, 5-4.
At that point, Pitt faced an 18-9 deficit.
“That was tough,” Peters said. “You think you're winning a match and (with) two seconds to go, the ref calls you for stalling. You got into overtime … it is what it is. You maybe need to get another takedown or get out sooner.”
Pitt's Max Thomusseit, ranked No. 6, saved three points with a late takedown against unranked Nolan Boyd, prevailing with an 8-6 victory at 184 pounds.
No. 19 Nick Bonaccorsi (Bethel Park) kept the comeback alive when he, too, posted an overtime takedown for a 3-1 victory over Kyle Crutchmer.
That put Tasser within striking distance, and the Panthers' heavyweight created a memory he won't soon forget by taking Marsden to the mat and celebrating by signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“I would say this is one of the best wins we've had as a team,” Tasser said. “Just showing that we're resilient, and we're not going to give up.
“We don't care if you're fifth in the country. We're going to come out, and we're still going to try and win.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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