West Virginia Set for Dual Meet with No. 21 Pitt
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— Coming off a big win over cross-state rival Ohio on Friday night, West Virginia will have to make the quick turnaround and face another familiar foe.
The Mountaineers will make the just over one hour commute up I-79 to meet No. 21 ranked Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. Sunday inside the Fitzgerald Field House.
“I’m excited to go up there,” Mountaineers sixth-year senior Killian Cardinale said. “Pitt versus West Virginia, it’s a big rivalry. We got the Backyard Brawl in football, and it kind of has that same feel. It’s a big match for us.”
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Sunday will be the third time the Mountaineers have matched up with the Panthers under fifth-year head coach Tim Flynn.
Pittsburgh came out victorious with a 37-3 victory at Fitzgerald in 2018 and followed with a 29-6 win in Morgantown in 2019.
West Virginia is looking for its first dual meet win over a ranked opponent since 2021, when the Mountaineers upended then-No. 17 Northern Colorado 25-11.
“It’s always a lot of things,” Flynn said. “It’s health. It’s how you compete that day. People forget that these kids are human, so you don’t always feel the same. It’s hard to get wins in college wrestling. We don’t take any of them for granted.”
The Panthers (5-1) head into the meet on a four match win streak, the most recent being a slim 19-18 victory over Columbia on Dec. 11.
Pittsburgh, like West Virginia, also competed in the Midlands Championships on Dec. 29 and 30 in Illinois, earning a second place finish as a team. The Mountaineers took 12th.
Cole Matthews, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the nation at 141 pounds, went 6-0 at Midlands to earn the individual championship. Reece Heller also took first at 184 pounds for the Panthers, while freshman heavyweight Dayton Pitzer finished runner-up.
Along with Matthews, the Panthers boast three additional wrestlers ranked in the Top 10 in their respective weight classes, with 197-pound Nino Bonaccorsi checking in at No. 4, Dayton Pitzer currently being the No. 5 heavyweight and Micky Phillippi sitting No. 7 at 133.
“Pitt has a good team,” Flynn said. “We’re just really trying to focus on our guys preparing properly and competing properly. We’ll just let the wrestling take care of itself.”
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Friday’s win over Ohio also bumped West Virginia to 5-1, marking the Mountaineers’ best start through six matches under Flynn, with all five wins coming at home.
Statistically, the Mountaineers have been better at home in the previous four seasons, posting a combined 13-13 record inside the Coliseum and 4-20 away from Morgantown, not counting neutral site meets.
Sunday’s matchup in Pittsburgh is the first of four straight matchups on the road for the Mountaineers, but Flynn remains confident in his group.
Cardinale, who is ranked No. 7 at 125 pounds, is back in the starting lineup officially after missing the team’s first five meets and two tournament appearances while being sidelined due to injury. No. 8 Peyton Hall (165 pounds), No. 19 Michael Wolfgram (Heavyweight) and No. 24 Sam Hillegas (149) all make strong presences for the Mountaineers.
Flynn also sits at 249 career wins in his 26th overall season as a head coach. The former Penn State wrestler served 21 seasons at the helm for Edinboro before coming to West Virginia.
“We just need to take care of the little things and get every point that we can,” Flynn said. “Right now, we’re wrestling well and we’re improving. Hopefully we can get the job done on Sunday.”