Two area wrestling stars claim ACC titles

Jake Peters, Staff Writer

It was a busy Sunday filled with action when NC State hosted the ACC Wrestling Championships. The University of Pittsburgh, as well as many other schools, was able to crown some champions and advance others to the 2021 NCAA Championships.

First, senior Jake Wentzel (South Park, Pa.) started things off by defending his ACC Championship in the 165-pound weight class. Known for his unconventional ways of wrestling, he has seen large amounts of success since his high school days. As one of the most accomplished wrestlers in South Park history, Wentzel went on one of the best runs ever in high school. From his sophomore to senior year at South Park, Wentzel racked up a 122-3 record! He would go undefeated his senior season, placing first in sections, districts, regions, and states in both his junior and senior seasons. Talk about one of the greatest careers someone could ever walk out of high school with.

Now, onto his ACC title bout. Wentzel had a matchup with a familiar foe from Virginia, Jake Keating. He had already bested his opponent before and was looking to do the same again. Wentzel was riding Keating for as much time as possible, as well as grabbing a key takedown in the third period to get a 4-0 victory. 

After the victory, Wentzel had these things to say about the match and his opponent: “He’s a tough wrestler. He’s real scrappy. He never gives up… I just knew I had to be on my game. I knew he was going to come out and wrestle and try his hardest, so I just had to be the best me out there today.” (Mitchell Northam, Pittsburgh Sports Now). 

Onto Bethel Park’s very own, the legend, Nino Bonaccorsi. The 197-pound weight class junior wrestler has been grinding ever since stepping on Oakland’s campus. This Sunday, he had his third shot at an ACC Championship and didn’t disappoint. The years before, he had finished third and second, respectively.

Sunday, was finally the day where Bonaccorsi could get the win. Earlier in the day, he displayed his intensity with an 8-2 semifinal win over an NC State wrestler. Similar to Wentzel, he had to face another great Virginia wrestler, Jay Aiello. Despite this, Bonaccorsi handled him very dominantly in a great win. He was very convincing with a 10-4 final. 

After the win, he had the following things to reflect on: “It really feels nice in such a tough conference…I just wanted to wrestle my match. Obviously, that’s a little cliche, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t going out with a specific thing in mind… It just gets me pumped for nationals.” (Mitchell Northam, Pittsburgh Sports Now).

Bonaccorsi, just like Wentzel, is one of Bethel Park’s greatest wrestlers, if not the best of all time. Starting his career in 2013, he had to fight through a lot of adversity. His freshman year was very good, but his craft and size needed to be built on a lot. The next year, he was jumping weight classes and making leaps. From his sophomore to senior season, he finished with a 118-12 record, as well as winning the WPIALs twice and finishing second in states twice in his junior and senior seasons. Finally, Bonaccorsi holds and ties many records that are still in place today. In school history, he has the most WPIAL championships, most state placements, second-most career wins, and on top of all that the most Allegheny County Tournament championships.

In addition to Wentzel and Bonaccorsi, two other wrestlers qualified for the National Championships in mid-March. Cole Matthews finished third in his 141-pound weight class, and Micky Phillippi, who was upset in the championship, was named the runner-up. Phillippi is a very dominant wrestler, and the loss was very surprising. While fans may not have gotten the chance to witness Phillippi win an  ACC Championship, do not be surprised at all if he makes some noise at the NCAA Nationals.

Congratulations to Bonaccorsi and Wentzel on their ACC Championships and making the local people proud!

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