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Eric Knopsnyder | The Tribune-Democrat | November 3, 2017

NCAA champion ready to lead Pitt wrestling program

Keith Gavin (in white) was the 2008 174-pound champion at Pitt and is now the head coach for the Panthers.

PITTSBURGH -- Keith Gavin has heard plenty about the potential of the University of Pittsburgh's wrestling program since he was named head coach in April.

But Gavin, who won a 2008 NCAA title wrestling for the Panthers, is tired of talk about what the future may hold. He's ready to see what his alma mater can do this season.

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"Everybody talks about potential of the program," he said during the team's media day on Monday. "That's something that we, as a team, don't really try focus on too much, because we're trying to get better daily and see how good we can be."

Gavin has some pieces in place. The No. 24 Panthers return a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference champions in 133-pounder Dom Forys and 157-pounder Taleb Rahmani. Ryan Solomon, who qualified for the NCAA tournament at 285 pounds and was one victory short of earning All-American honors, is back for his senior season.

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Add in Kellan Stout, a transfer from Penn State at 197 pounds, and highly touted recruit Nino Bonaccorsi at 184 -- if he doesn't redshirt -- and the Panthers could make some noise this season. Of course, a schedule that includes eight dual meets against teams ranked in the top 25 -- including three from the ACC -- won't make it easy.

Gavin said he doesn't want his wrestlers to focus on wins and losses as much as how they perform.

"We talk about valuing the things that can't be taken away," he said. "We value effort and attitude instead of the wins and losses, because those come and go. Sometimes that's out of your control. But if you always compete with full effort and a great attitude, we can fix the technical mistakes. That's what we focus on a lot -- do the work, do it well, and take pride in that. Let the rest of the stuff go. The rewards and recognition is just extra. ... That's what we're trying to set the standard and culture to be."

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Nick Zanetta, a redshirt senior 141-pounder, likes what he sees and hears out of Gavin and the Pitt coaching staff.

"It's really exciting to be part of this," Zanetta said. "I kind of wish I had a few more years, but I'm making the best out of it."

Pennsylvania is regarded as one of the best states in the nation for high school wrestling -- along with Ohio and New Jersey -- which puts Pitt in the middle of some of the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation. Gavin already seems to be making progress in that department, with four of the state's top wrestlers having given verbal commitments to the Panthers, but he also knows that the true test will be how his wrestlers perform at the NCAA tournament.

"Our sport is a little weird, just how the last three days in March really make or break your season," he said. "That's where you want to be your best. If we get multiple guys on the podium, than that's a successful season and a great start. We're always going to be looking to build off of that."

This article is written by Eric Knopsnyder from The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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