WPIAL wrestling champ Ryan Michaels of Elizabeth Forward headed to Pitt

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 | 3:42 PM

Coach Keith Gavin, now wrapping up his third season at the helm, has made solid progress in improving the standing of the Pitt wrestling program on the national scene.

Over the past two seasons, the Panthers have gone 23-7 in dual meets, crowned five ACC champs and qualified 11 wrestlers for the NCAA tournament.

Ryan Michaels was watching.

Impressed with the direction the program is headed, Michaels, a senior from Elizabeth Forward, committed to Pitt on Wednesday afternoon.

Michaels might be a little too young to remember Gavin winning a national title as a senior at Pitt in 2008, but that fact didn’t escape his attention either.

“He was able to turn the Pitt program around in the couple years that he’s been there,” Michaels said. “He was a national champ, too. He has some credentials.”

So does Michaels, of course. The 120-pounder went 45-3 this season, rolled to a WPIAL Class AA title and finished second in the state. His career record was 123-11.

“They said they like the way I wrestle,” Michaels said. “I wrestle hard and score points.”

Michaels originally committed to Campbell in January, picking the North Carolina school over Pitt and George Mason.

At the time, Campbell’s head coach was Jefferson-Morgan graduate Cary Kolat. During the recruiting process, the former WPIAL legend won Michaels over with his intensity.

Last month, however, Kolat left Campbell to take over as coach at Navy. That started a process that led to Michaels reopening his recruitment.

“When he left, I was debating,” Michaels said. “Then two more coaches left. That made the decision easier.”

It didn’t take long for Michaels to switch his allegiance to Pitt.

“It was a tough decision between Pitt and Campbell. When Campbell was out, I went right to that,” Michaels said. “I just wanted to go to the place that I thought was right. I felt that about Campbell. Same with Pitt, too.”

Michaels said he’s not sure if he’ll end up at 125 or 133 pounds at Pitt, but he’ll go wherever he’s needed.

Stuck at home due to coronavirus restrictions, Michaels has found a way to keep working toward his goal of making an impact in college wrestling for the Panthers.

“I have a gym in my garage. I work out there all the time,” he said. “I wrestle with my brother and I go for runs.”

Jonathan Bombulie is the TribLive assistant sports editor. A Greensburg native, he was a hockey reporter for two decades, covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 17 seasons before joining the Trib in 2015 and covering the Penguins for four seasons, including Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17. He can be reached at jbombulie@triblive.com.


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