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Wrestling programs look ahead to NCAA tourney

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

Pitt wrestling coach Jason Peters isn't going to get too excited over a loss, even if it was by 20 points to a team six spots below in the national rankings.

Similarly, Edinboro's Tim Flynn won't be throwing a party because his team cruised to its first Eastern Wrestling League title since 2010.

“Whenever you don't attain one of your goals, it stings,” said Peters, whose 10th-ranked Panthers trailed No. 16 Virginia Tech 87-67 for the team title at Saturday's ACC Championships. “But we're not going to dwell on it.

“They know what happened. They're disappointed. I don't know that there's anything more we can talk about, other than get better and get ready to wrestle at the NCAAs in Oklahoma City.”

The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are March 20-22 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., and while this past weekend was important, it's hardly the ultimate goal.

Pitt will take at least six automatic qualifiers: Anthony Zanetta (125), Edgar Bright (141), Mikey Racciato (149), Tyler Wilps (174), Max Thomusseit (184) and PJ Tasser (285) advanced, though Wilps was the only won to win an ACC title.

Zanetta, Bright, Racciato and Thomusseit lost in the finals at Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum.

“To me, it's just a steppingstone,” said Wilps, a Chartiers Valley graduate who earned a 7-2 decision over Virginia's Stephen Doty. “I'm looking at nationals and getting on the podium.”

No. 13 Edinboro will take seven wrestlers, five EWL champions.

A.J. Schopp picked up his third consecutive EWL title at 133 pounds, while Mitchell Port and David Habat won for the second straight year at 141 and 149, respectively.

Vic Avery's victory at 184 pounds was the highlight of the event for Flynn.

“I think Vic Avery probably wrestled the best match of his season in the finals,” Flynn said. “He's really starting to peak at the right time.”

Heavyweight Ernest James' takedown 35 seconds into overtime secured Edinboro's fifth and final EWL individual title.

Not that Flynn, who has presided over 13 EWL team championships, is going to get all that worked up over it.

“I think all the guys have something to build on, and that's the important thing,” Flynn said. “We just want to stay focused and stay sharp. I do think we're wrestling well going into the biggest tournament of the year.”

Austin Matthews (157) will represent Clarion — at least until additional, at-large selections are made for all teams this week.

Cory Stainbrook (125), Mike Morales (149), Bubba Scheffel (174) and A.J. Vizcarrondo (285) advanced for West Virginia, Vizcarrondo after reaching the heavyweight final.

One of the biggest Big 12 surprises came when West Virginia's Colin Johnston, a Canon-McMillan graduate and the No. 1 seed at 141 pounds, dropped a pair of matches by a combined score of 26-4.

Johnston, ranked No. 14 by InterMat, will be one of several waiting on an at-large bid.

No school knows more about the importance of the NCAA Tournament than Penn State, which has won the past three national titles.

Coach Cael Sanderson's group cruised to a fourth consecutive Big Ten team championship Sunday and had two individual champions: David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (184), who became the 12th and 13th four-time champions in the history of the league.

Penn State advanced 10 wrestlers to the NCAAs.

Taylor was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year for the third time, and Sanderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fourth year in a row.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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