wrestling

Senior Micah Burak is the clear favorite for the EIWA in the 197-pound weight class this season and could contend for a national championship.

Photo: Maegan Cadet / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Everywhere around the nation, people are falling and floors are shaking.

Don’t worry though, it’s not an earthquake. It’s just the start of the 2012-13 collegiate wrestling season.

Sunday, Penn’s grapplers will travel to upstate New York to compete in the annual Binghamton Open, their first competition of the year.

“Preseason was pretty good, we had a lot of tough practices, tough training, and I feel like as a team and as an individual we’re well-prepared,” sophomore Steve Robertson said. “We’re all ready to finally compete.”

Robertson, who last year reached the semifinals of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships and was an NCAA Championship qualifier, is one of the Quakers’ up-and-coming wrestlers.

Despite having gone up one weightclass, from 149 to 157 pounds, he is confident he will build on his successful freshman campaign.

“I like to believe that … with the new moves that I’ve added to my arsenal and all the training I’ve done, I’ve gotten a lot better from last year,” he said.

Of course, the star of the team will be senior Micah Burak, who was an All-American last year and is currently ranked No. 5 in the 197-pound weightclass.

Moreover, the Red and Blue are counting on the return of Mark Rappo, also a senior. Rappo is currently No. 13 in the 125-pound weightclass but won’t take part in this weekend’s tournament.

Binghamton represents the first opportunity of the year for the Quakers to test their skills against other EIWA foes and to discover new opponents.

“[My] personal goal is to go out there and try to win, but it should be interesting to see new faces,” Burak said. “[At the start of] last year I wasn’t able to work out for a while, [so] I lost a lot of my strength. But this year I feel like I’m coming back strong.”

With the graduation of Cornell’s Cam Simaz, last year’s NCAA champion and Burak’s biggest rival, Burak is the clear-cut favorite in the EIWA and a strong contender for a national title.

At 133 pounds, it is not yet clear who will replace Bryan Ortenzio, last year’s EIWA champion. The race is also wide open at 141 pounds, in which three wrestlers are competing for 2011 All-Ivy Zack Kemmerer’s former spot.

The same uncertainty applies to the higher weightclasses — except for 197 pounds, where Burak, barring an injury, is the go-to guy.

The question as to who exactly will start for Penn probably won’t be settled until the first dual meet against Oklahoma State on Nov. 25. But the Binghamton Open will be the first opportunity for the coaches to evaluate their grapplers in a competitive context.

Overall, the team should enjoy one of its best years in the quality of its depth. The Quakers will need it, considering the immense challenge that awaits them in the form of EIWA rivals Cornell, Harvard and Lehigh.

While Penn is ranked only No. 29, the Big Red, Mountain Hawks and Crimson are No. 8, No. 22 and No. 23, respectively. But Robertson believes his team is more than capable of finding success this year. And it all starts Sunday.

“Rankings don’t really matter, but I think that as a team, we’re a lot stronger than people think we are,” he said. “I think it would be great to go out there and win the Binghamton Open.”

SEE ALSO

Penn wrestler Micah Burak’s season to remember

Burak shines at NCAA Wrestling Championships

Penn wrestling their way back at NCAA Championships

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