In a weightclass where mass is so important to success, rarely do you see David take out Goliath.
But Saturday, despite being significantly undersized, sophomore Steven Graziano challenged that notion, winning the 285-pound weightclass, 5-2, against Columbia’s behemoth — No. 27 Kevin Lester.
Graziano’s win in the final round gave the Quakers a 19-18 victory over the Lions (6-4, 1-2).
“I’ve been on a roll lately so I just got [a lot] of confidence,” Graziano said. “I knew I was going to win that match.”
The final match started slowly as Lester took a slim 1-0 lead after an escape in the second period. Graziano nearly responded with a takedown, but his opponent was judged out of bounds.
“I knew that once I got that shot it was only a matter of time before I was going to take him down,” Graziano said.
The smaller, slimmer Graziano, who wrestled the majority of last year at 197 pounds, outmaneuvered Lester by taking advantage of his size. All he needed to do was to wait for his opponent to be tired and “to start getting sloppy.”
“These guys are a lot bigger than me so I have to [be patient],” Graziano said. “I can’t go out there and out-power these guys, but if I use my speed and technique I can pull away one.”
The win capped an exciting day for some of the Penn wrestlers’ last home match.
The Quakers’ (6-6, 2-2 Ivy) senior day at the Palestra started with Columbia’s Robert Dyar (125 pounds) taking a 15-2 major decision against Karim Shafi.
After Seniors Bryan Ortenzio and Zack Kemmerer, scored two relatively easy wins, No. 26 Steve Robertson (149), a true freshman, upset No. 19 Steve Santos, 6-4, for his first win against a top-20 grappler this season.
For Red and Blue coach Rob Eiter, that match turned the dual meet in Penn’s favor.
“[Robertson] had been struggling the past couple of weeks,” Eiter said. “He’s a very emotional kid and I made a match-time decision here. I know his potential, I know what he can do and boy, he went after it.”
Three matches later, the Quakers were still ahead, 13-12. But then, Columbia took an 18-13 lead thanks to Shane Hughes’ fall of senior Erich Smith (184).
“Obviously I feel a little bit sad for Erich Smith but these things happen,” Eiter said.
No. 9 Micah Burak managed to cut Penn’s deficit to two, paving the way for Graziano’s clutch victory.
“Columbia’s heavyweight — he’s a giant!” Eiter said. “But sometimes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
On Sunday, Penn wresling won its third straight match against Bucknell. Boosted by Burak and Kemmerer, the win, 23-13, capped off a perfect weekend for the Quakers.
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