Pitt's wrestling team is making quite a first impression in its new conference.
The No. 6-ranked Panthers (12-1, 5-0) clinched at least a share of the ACC dual-meet championship with a 19-14 victory against Virginia Tech (15-3, 4-2) Friday night at Fitzgerald Field House.
"We always want to win championships," Pitt coach Jason Peters said. "We set out to do that when we were in the [Eastern Wrestling League] and now we're trying to do it in the ACC. It's important."
Pitt's lone remaining ACC match is Feb. 22 against North Carolina and the Panthers are one match up in the loss column on Virginia.
This is the first year that the ACC has recognized the dual conference championship. In the past, it only recognized the tournament champion. The wrestling title is the first ACC championship for Pitt in any sport.
Before this season, Pitt won three of the past four EWL championships and the previous three EWL tournament titles.
"Going into the ACC, there was a lot of hype and a lot of talk among the media, 'Can we hang in the ACC?' " Pitt redshirt senior Anthony Zanetta said. "Could we travel down South against the bigger schools who may be better than those in the EWL.
"I think we just wanted to prove a lot of people wrong. We didn't just want to come into the ACC and hang. We wanted to dominate and I think that's what we're doing."
Zanetta got the ball rolling with a 3-1 win against No. 19 Joey Dance at 125 pounds. With the win, Zanetta became the 18th wrestler in Pitt history to reach 100 career victories.
No. 20 Shelton Mack and No. 17 Edgar Bright added one-point wins at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, to give the Panthers an early 9-0 lead.
But Virginia Tech won the next three matches, including a 28-13 technical fall by Sal Mastriani against Ronnie Garbinsky at 157 pounds, to take an 11-9 lead. Garbinsky led his match, 5-0, but he wasn't the same after a leg injury late in first period.
The Panthers are strong at the heavier weights, closing with four ranked wrestlers, and that strength proved to be the difference.
No. 7 Tyler Wilps got the momentum back on Pitt's side with a 13-3 major decision over John Dickson at 174 pounds.
No. 6 Max Thomusseit (7-2 against No. 17 Nick Vetterlein) and No. 18 Nick Bonaccorsi (8-3 against No. 20 Chris Penny) followed Wilps with decisions against ranked foes to clinch the match for Pitt at 19-11.
"We started rolling," Peters said. "We starting picking up the pace and getting in position to get majors. [Wrestlers at ] 74, 84, 97, they all did a great job."
With the win already sealed, Pitt sent out Mike Gregory at 285 instead of usual starter, No. 20 P.J. Tasser. Gregory lost to Ty Walz, 12-10, for the final score.
The victory was Pitt's ninth consecutive dual victory since its lone loss to Penn State, and it came against the defending ACC tournament champions.
"[Pitt] brought toughness," Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser said. "[Pennsylvania] wrestling is tough and so it's a welcome addition."