It’s real now for Pitt wrestler Nino Bonaccorsi
When he was 5-years old and his brother, Nick, was going to wrestling tournaments, Nino Bonaccorsi tagged along. He became such a fixture that tournament officials started weighing him before the start of the matches – as if he was one of the wrestlers.
That was for fun, but now the weigh-in procedure actually means something. Bonaccorsi, a Pitt redshirt freshman and Bethel Park graduate, is the No. 13 seed at 184 pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena. He will wrestle Utah Valley State’s Will Sumner (21-11) in the first round Thursday.
“I’ve been wanting to be here since I was a little kid,” said Bonaccorsi, who carries a 19-6 record with him. “Stepping on that mat is a dream come true.”
When Nick was in high school, Nino was in Hershey to watch his brother, older by six years, take home the runner-up medal at the PIAA championships. He also followed him to Madison Square Garden for nationals, one of three such appearances for Nick, who wrestled for Pitt through the 2015-2016 season.
“I grew up in a wrestling room, basically,” he said. “Ever since then, I kind of fell in love with it. I don’t remember a time when I was doing something where wrestling wasn’t involved.”
He said he started wrestling himself as a four-year-old.
“It wasn’t a forced thing. I really wanted to get out there,” he said.
When he got to high school, Bonaccorsi wrestled at 132 pounds, but he grew into the 182 class by the time he was a senior and became a two-time PIAA runner-up.
He was a bit over his 184 limit Wednesday, but he said losing a few pounds won’t be a problem. Practice takes care of most of the excess weight.
“I’ll watch what I eat (at dinner Wednesday night),” he said. “I eat healthy, anyway. I’m not a big junk food eater.”
His staples are chicken and vegetables, and, of course, pasta. “I‘m Italian. I can’t help it,” he said.
Bonaccorski said his brother had some advice for him this week.
“It gets pretty hectic,” Nino said. “He told me to go out and relax and don’t make it bigger than what it is. It’s a tournament at the end of the day.”
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Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .