WVU and Pitt in Wrestling Showdown

By Ira Green
WVU Sports Information Office

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (February 6, 2009) – The West Virginia University wrestling team will travel north to face Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) foe Pitt in the 54th mat edition of the Backyard Brawl on Saturday, Feb. 7. The match is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Fitzgerald Field House.

WVU (6-4, 3-0 EWL) is riding a four-match winning streak heading into Saturday. The contest against the Panthers, however, could be the Mountaineers’ toughest conference test this season as both teams are competing to stay atop the league standings.

"I think it's very similar to our past three matches,” Coach Craig Turnbull said. “If we wrestle well, I think it's a match that can go either way. I think on paper, they are the favorite team. Like all sports, though, fortunately you don't compete on paper. They present their own unique challenges where their strengths are. They start strong at 125. It's going to present a real challenge to us."

Pitt (3-6, 3-0 EWL) is coming off a 27-3 loss at the hands of non-conference opponent Kent State, ranked 24th at the time. The team’s lone points came from 149-pound senior Mark Powell, who scored a 5-2 decision.

The Panthers, like the Mountaineers, have three wrestlers ranked in the Top 20 of the latest InterMat rankings.

Heavyweight Zach Sheaffer, who is ranked No. 8 nationally, holds a 17-5 overall mark, but has dropped four of his last five bouts. Also ranked is 133-pound junior Jimmy Conroy and 141-pound redshirt-freshman Tyler Nauman. Conroy, 17th at his respective weight class, is 17-10 on the year with six wins coming by major decision and one by tech fall. Nauman, ranked No. 13, owns a 22-7 mark, nine victories coming via fall.

Pitt is under the direction of 30th-year Head Coach Rande Stottlemyer, who owns a 250-214-10 overall record. Stottlemyer led Pitt to a 13-4 record last season, including a 5-1 mark in EWL action, good enough for second place in the league. Sheaffer, Conroy and 165-pound sophomore Ethan Headlee all qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Mountaineers recently posted a 20-16 victory at Lock Haven on Jan. 31, despite trailing for half of the match.

"We've been responding well to the other challenges and this one may be a little bit of a level up, but it is still very similar,” Turnbull added. “There is no special game plan. We've had a good week of practice and we recognize that we have to get our best game out to get a win."

Freshman Colin Johnston (141) earned the team’s first points with his first career major decision. In his 17-4 victory over Zach Kell, Johnston recorded 10 points in the third period. Redshirt-freshman Ryan Goodman (157) earned the next three points for WVU with a 5-3 decision. The Latrobe, Pa., native registered a takedown with less than 10 seconds in the bout for the victory. Redshirt-junior Donnie Jones (165) followed that performance with his team-leading second tech fall, a 21-6 victory.

Fifth-year seniors Kurt Brenner (174), ranked No. 12 nationally, and Dustin Rogers, ranked 18th, also posted bonus decisions, with Rogers’ 9-1 victory giving WVU the win.

One of the most anticipated matches will take place at heavyweight, with Pitt’s Sheaffer and WVU’s Rogers. Despite this being the last time the two will face each other in regular-season action, ultimately breaking the 1-1 all-time tie, the history lies in what each has had on the line heading into their matches.

On Feb. 2, 2007, WVU trailed No. 25 Pitt, 15-16, heading into the final match at heavyweight. Rogers landed a 6-4 win in sudden victory to give WVU the 18-16 win.

A year later on Feb. 8, Sheaffer was able to get even with Rogers. The Mountaineers were ahead 17-15, but Sheaffer registered a 9-3 decision, allowing Pitt to leave the Coliseum with the 18-17 win.

"With Sheaffer, they are pretty evenly matched. It's all about who creates a break during a critical moment in the match and who capitalizes in a situation,” Turnbull commented. “That bout, whether the match is on the line or not, will be a very similar match. They know each other. They have respect for each other. They know a break either way is going to determine the match."

Since 2000, WVU is 6-3 against Pitt.

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