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Duke wrestling's struggles continue as slide grows to 8

<p>Duke wrestling has been out of sorts lately.</p>

Duke wrestling has been out of sorts lately.

The Blue Devils split matches with No. 15 Pittsburgh on Saturday, winning five matches but ultimately falling to the Panthers by one point—20-19.

Duke fell behind 9-0 after a loss at 125 and a forfeit at 133. The Blue Devils responded quickly, tying the dual at 9-9 with a pair of wins in the next two weights. Josh Finesilver earned a gritty 9-7 decision win over LJ Bentley at 141 and Eric Carter won by medical forfeit  at 149. Carter, making his dual debut for Duke, forced a scramble in the first period that resulted in Panther Robert Lee forfeiting. 

Pittsburgh retook the lead with a decision from No. 11 Taleb Rahmani at 157, but Duke fired back with consecutive Finesilver wins. Zach Finesilver posted 14 points en route to a major decision over Tommy O'Brien and No. 16 Matt Finesilver continued his impressive sophomore campaign with a thrilling overtime win against Gregg Harvey. At the end of the first overtime period, Matt came out on top in a last-second scramble. The referees, however, ruled that time had run out before the takedown was secured. Both coaches threw their challenge bricks and the call was eventually reversed—giving Matt the match-clinching takedown and 4-2 win. Following the nailbiter at 174, the Blue Devils led 16-12.

The seesaw continued when No. 10 Nino Bonaccorsi brought the Panthers within one point with a decision win at 184. 197 featured a rematch of the 2018 dual between Pittsburgh's No. 20 Kellan Stout and senior captain Alec Schenk. After losing 4-2 last season, Schenk flipped the script with a 4-2 win of his own. The Blue Devil started strong, scoring an early takedown and riding out the first period. He then tacked on two escape points to secure his redemption and first win over a top-20 opponent this season.

Duke led 19-15 with one match left, but No. 16 Demetrious Thomas iced the dual for Pitt with a win by technical fall at heavyweight.

After starting the season 2-0, the Blue Devils have dropped eight consecutive duals. Forfeits at 125 and 133 have hurt the team, as each is an automatic six points for opposing teams. Freshman Arien Leigh recently had his redshirt pulled to fill in at 125, but 133 remains a weight of need. Against Pittsburgh, if Duke had a wrestler at 133 who could have held the match to a major decision loss against No. 5 Micky Phillippi, the Blue Devils would have won the dual. 

Duke finishes its regular season against North Carolina next Friday, Feb. 22, in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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