With three matches behind them, the grapplers on Penn’s wrestling team are still fighting for the squad’s top places.
After losing to No. 3 Oklahoma State on Sunday, coach Rob Eiter made it clear that, at 133 pounds and at heavyweight, the first spot on the team is up for grabs.
“Right now there are probably two weightclasses that have not been set yet,” Eiter said. “So we still need to evaluate them.”
At these classes, Eiter will test his wrestlers out this weekend as the Quakers take to the mat against No. 14 Lehigh on Saturday in Bethlehem, Pa., before returning to the Palestra on Sunday against Hofstra.
Eiter is particularly concerned with the heavyweight class, in which junior Kyle Cowan is returning from injury. Although Cowan earned the start against the Cowboys on Sunday, junior Stephen Graziano is challenging for his place. Eiter knows this weekend will be a test for the two heavyweights.
“Stephen has won the right to challenge for the spot, and with Kyle not being 100 percent right now, it is kind of tough to wrestle off and make it legitimate,” he said. “So we will probably give them both a shot this weekend.”
With some weightclasses still undecided, there is a competitive spirit among the grapplers, which Eiter believes is a positive for the team.
“You always want to have competition in the room, and obviously the better the competition, the better it pushes you,” he said. “It keeps you honest because the moment you slack off, there is a guy right behind you ready to take your spot.”
At the same time, the team has stability with senior Mark Rappo leading from the front at 125 and sophomore C.J. Cobb at 141, where he is replacing All-American Zack Kemmerer, who graduated in May. Rappo and Cobb came home from Oklahoma State with two of Penn’s three wins in the meet.
While the loss to the Cowboys was difficult to stomach for the Quakers, Eiter knows his men have to show they can compete at the top level in order to win the matchups to come.
“The purpose for scheduling such a tough match so early was to let everyone understand that this was what it’s going to take,” he said. “So they really came back better than I thought. You can lose a match and complain and feel sorry for yourself, or you can buckle down and get back to work.”
While Penn continues to figure out who will emerge as its top wrestlers, the Red and Blue are still in a position to make this season a success story.
“You should always go in with the attitude that we’re going to win,” Eiter said. “And we did in a couple of matches and we didn’t in a couple of matches. And that’s got to change.”
Right now, with the season still in its infancy, Penn’s grapplers are attempting to find their feet while their opponents get pinned to the mat.
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