The West Virginia University wrestling team prepares for their annual match against Eastern Wrestling League rival Pitt on Friday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Coliseum.
The Mountaineers (6-3, 3-0) are off to a hot start in EWL competition after dismantling their first three opponents by a combined score of 86-21. But their next opponent comes to Morgantown with a No. 20 ranking as well as four nationally ranked grapplers.
The Panthers (10-3, 3-0) are led by the top-rated 174-pounder in the country in Keith Gavin, who will battle upstart Mountaineer Chance Litton in what should be a competitive matchup. Litton has been steady for WVU and sports an 11-3 overall record with only one loss in dual matches. He faced Gavin at the Cliff Keen Invitational last December but was defeated in an 8-2 decision.
The 53rd annual Backyard Brawl also pits two of the country's top heavyweights. In a rematch of last season's dramatic contest, No. 16 Dustin Rogers of WVU will take on No. 14 Zach Shaffer. Rogers' 6-4 decision in overtime against Shaffer in last season's match gave the Mountaineers an 18-16 upset over their rival.
Pitt's No. 5 ranked Matt Kocher has a 19-4 overall mark and will take on No. 18 Zac Fryling (157), who owns a four-match winning streak and leads the Mountaineers in takedowns. Fryling will look to beat his second nationally-ranked wrestler of the season after downing Bloomsburg's Matt Moley in a 3-1 decision in overtime on Jan. 25.
At 141 pounds, freshman Stephen Waite is coming off his second career victory but will face a tough test in Pitt's Drew Headlee, ranked No. 17. Waite defeated Lock Haven's Owen Wilkinson in an 8-0 major decision and is hopeful for an upset as he tries to fill the spot of injured two-time All-American Brandon Rader.
Senior Jared Villers (197) will try to repeat last season's performance against Pitt when he notched a key technical fall to put the Mountaineers in position to win. Villers leads the team with a 13-2 record and has yet to lose in dual matches.
WVU has won the last six matches dating back to 2002 against Pitt, but is 23-28-1 overall in the series that first began in 1934.
Fans that can't make it out to the Coliseum can view the match live online on a pay-per-view basis through MSNsportsNET.com. All home meets can be accessed for $9.95 per month