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Terp wrestlers fall to Pitt 21-12 in their ACC opener

Though Maryland rallied late, the eleventh ranked Panthers dominance in the lower weight classes proved too much to overcome.

Following their astonishing comeback to defeat Rutgers 19-18 in the Grapple in the Garden Sunday, the Terrapin wrestling squad returned to the Comcast Pavilion to take on the eleventh ranked Pitt Panthers Friday night. No miracle comeback was in store as the Terps fell behind early as Pitt dominated the lower weight classes and defeated Maryland by a 21-12 score.

A crowd of several hundred watched as the Terps, led by heavyweight Spencer Myers, entered the gym through the inflatable tunnel. Among those attending was Robin Ficker. Those of you reading this in the D.C. metro area are probably familiar with Ficker. For those who are not, Ficker is a locally known attorney and political gadfly who also has a well earned reputation as a heckler extraordinaire.

The match got underway as Maryland's Billy Rappo faced off against tenth ranked Anthony Zanetta in the 125 pound weight class. After wrestling for about a minute without serious attack, Rappo went for a high leg takedown but couldn't gain control and scored no points. Zanetta mirrored that move with a similar result. Zanetta sensed an advantage, renewed his attack, and scored a takedown late in the first round to grab a 2-0 lead. Starting the second round in the upper position, the Pitt wrestler maintained control throughout the two minute session and built up a considerable riding time advantage.

If you are new to wrestling, riding time begins when the referee signals that one wrestler has an advantage. The clock starts counting up until the official signals an escape. The clock counts down when formerly controlled wrestler gains an advantage. At the end of the bout, if a wrestler has one minute or more of net time advantage, that wrestler is awarded one point.

The wrestlers began the third round in the neutral position and Zanetta scored a quick takedown. Rappo managed to get an escape but Zanetta followed with another takedown for two more points and a 6-1 lead. Rappo earned another point on an escape but Zanetta was content to simply fend off the Terrapin wrestler's attacks and end the match ahead 6-2 while also picking up a point for riding time for a 7-2 final and a 3-0 team lead for the visitors.

Maryland's Tony Farace stepped into wrestle for an injured Tyler Goodwin and stepped up a weight class to wrestle at 133 pounds against the Panthers fourteenth ranked Shelton Mack. "We were planning on redshirting him this year," Coach Kerry McCoy said after the match, "but we had no one else." Facing a wrestler who was making his first match appearance of the year, Mack looked to be confident and aggressive appearing almost unconcerned as Farace managed escapes after two first round takedowns. By the end of the bout, Mack held a 12-4 lead and won a major decision (between 8 and 14 points) and four points in the team competition.

Early in the season, Shyheim Brown has been one of the bright spots for Maryland in the lower weight classes. Following his two big wins on Sunday, Brown entered the night ranked eighth in the country at 141 pounds. He faced off against Pitt's Edgar Bright. Following the pattern set in the first two matches, Bright was the aggressor early scoring a first round takedown. Brown attempted to rally but Bright wrestled confidently to eventually earn a 5-3 decision.

Derrick Evanovich, wrestling place of an injured Frank Goodwin also put up a valiant struggle against Pitt's Mikey Racciato. Evanovich rallied from a 3-1 deficit scoring a two points on a reversal to tie the match. Racciato earned a point on an escape for a 4-3 lead and also held a point in reserve for riding time advantage. Evanovich amped up the pressure and was being urged on by a crowd that finally drowned out Robin Ficker. McCoy said, "That's our number two guy wrestling their starter and we had him on the ropes at the end. Thirty more seconds of activity and we can win that match." But the clock didn't have those thirty seconds and Racciato held on for the 5-3 win that put the Terps in a 13-0 hole as a team.

Danny Orem finally broke through for Maryland wrestling Pitt's Cole Sheptock - the younger brother of Terrapin All-American Jimmy Sheptock - at 157 pounds. Orem's takedown with just seconds remaining in the third round earned him a 3-1 decision, brought the crowd to their feet and pulled the Terps within ten in the team scoring.

Tony Volpe, also wrestling his first match of the year, fell by a score of 11-5 to Pitt's Geno Morelli in the 165 pound weight class. Eight ranked Tyler Wilps simply manhandled Maryland's Tony Gardner winning a technical fall (a margin of 15 points or more) and five team points that effectively sewed up the match for the Panthers as they took a 21-3 lead with three weight classes to go. (Technically, Maryland could have won the match had they scored falls - AKA pins - in the remaining three matches but that is an exceedingly unlikely occurrence with the Pitt wrestlers knowing they simply had to avoid being pinned.)

The three heavier weight classes that have been Maryland's strength in the early going this season repeated that pattern Friday night. In one of the highlight matches of the night, Maryland's second ranked Jimmy Sheptock wrestled Pitt's fifth ranked Max Thomusseit at 174 pounds. Neither wrestler appeared particularly aggressive early and the first round ended with no score. Thomusseit scored an escape after starting the second round in the lower position and held that 1-0 lead at the beginning of the third. Sheptock won two points on a takedown in the third but the Panthers wrestler tied things up on an escape. Sheptock scored another takedown late in the match to secure the 4-2 win. "Everyone has a different style. Some guys are going to go out fast. I like to see what's going on for the first thirty seconds or so. I knew it was going to be a tight match and I knew I was going to have to pull the trigger sometime and it just happened to be at the end," Sheptock said afterward.

At 197 pounds, thirteenth ranked Christian Boley scored a takedown late in the first round to grab a 2-0 margin. Wrestling for Pitt, Nick Bonaccorsi started the second round in the lower position and won a point for an escape. Boley returned the favor in the third. Leading 3-1, he faced a dangerous moment midway through the third round when Bonaccorsi got a good single leg control but Boley with a vocal crowd urging him on managed to get free and hold on for the win.

In the last match of the night, Terrapin heavyweight sixth ranked Spencer Myers faced off against twentieth ranked P.J. Tasser. Myers held a clear size and weight advantage but did not attack Tasser aggressively and for the second consecutive match Myers found himself in a sudden victory overtime. Myers gave up three cautions with two coming in the second overtime that cost him a point and he had to rally with a late takedown to win a close 4-3 decision. "I haven't been performing," Myers said. "I've been underachieving. I'm not taking shots like I should be. I'm taking where I am for granted. I'm thinking I'm somebody I'm not right not. I've got to comeback and let it click for me just like some of the other guys. I can't wait for things to happen. I have to make something happen."

Myers and his teammates will have plenty of time to figure out a way to make things happen as they have closed out the semester. They won't wrestle again until the Midlands Championships on December 29 and 30 and their next dual meet involves a trip to Michigan on January 5, 2014.