Pitt wrestling Bonaccorsi claims 197-pound title at NCAA championships

Mar. 19—TULSA, Okla. — Pittsburgh has a new hometown hero.

Nino Bonaccorsi capped an undefeated season by winning the 197-pound title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday night.

"This means everything to me," Bonaccorsi said. "I was born in Pittsburgh. I'm 20 minutes from Pitt. That's my hometown. ... I always dreamed of wrestling at Pitt and winning a national title. And what better place to do it than my — basically my backyard school? I can't believe it."

Bonaccorsi, a super senior who lost in the 2021 championship match, beat South Dakota State's Tanner Sloan 5-3 for Pitt's first title since Keith Gavin — Bonaccorsi's head coach — won the 174-pound crown in 2008.

Gavin was asked how it felt to win a national title as coach versus winning one as a wrestler.

"It's better," Gavin said. "I'm just so happy for him."

Sloan led 3-0 in the second period, but Bonaccorsi (21-0) scored a takedown and built more than a minute of riding time, allowing him to choose neutral in the third period. Bonaccorsi added another takedown in the third to secure the victory.

"It's all about just continuing to wrestle my match," Bonaccorsi said. "When stuff isn't going my way, I kind of will panic a little bit and worry about it because I want to win so bad.

"But this past year I just started not worrying about what the score is and not even worrying about winning or losing, just continuing to wrestle my way. And that's hard every minute, no matter where the score is, down 8-0, up 8-0, and I'm always trying to win the next point and it worked out."