Even with the recent news of wrestling’s demise from the 2020 Olympic Games, the Penn wrestling team is pushing on bravely.
Hoping to continue their positive momentum from last weekend’s Ivy sweep, the No. 23 Quakers (7-3, 2-1) hope to win another conference matchup as they travel to New York to face Columbia.
The Red and Blue are confident that they’ll be able to keep up their positive momentum against the Lions (4-6, 0-1) after crushing Harvard and Brown last weekend by scores of 24-6 and 35-4, respectively.
Still, they won’t be taking Columbia lightly.
“Columbia’s always a tough team for us to wrestle,” coach Rob Eiter said. “They always come after us pretty hard, so we have to be ready to go, but the way the guys are wrestling right now, they’ve got a lot of confidence, so they feel pretty good.”
One bout of particular interest is at the 157-pound weightclass, where senior Troy Hernandez will take on 2012 NCAA tournament qualifier Jake O’Hara. O’Hara narrowly defeated Hernandez twice last year, including a 5-3 win at EIWA championships last year on his way to a fifth place finish in the regional tournament that kept Hernandez from moving on to the biggest stage of all.
“It’s a little personal for me as he’s beaten me twice and the last loss to him was so close at the Eastern conference,” Hernandez said. “If I got a takedown, I would have ended up qualifying for the national championships, so that really stung.”
For Hernandez, like so many on the Quakers’ roster, his focus is on gaining momentum before the individual championships begin in March.
“There are three tournaments left before the individual season starts, so a win against [O’Hara] will boost my confidence,” Hernandez said. “Just going out and finishing the season on a winning streak is huge.”
It is this mentality that is driving the Red and Blue on to further success. In spite of some important matchups to come, Eiter admits that everyone is now gearing up for the end of the season.
“They’re getting pretty anxious. We’re backing off a lot in practice right now. It’s that time of the year when you have to be careful not to push the guys too hard because they tend to get burned out,” Eiter said. “Because this is what they’ve been targeting all year and it’s so close, but they just have to finish a couple of things in front of us.”
With new NCAA rankings out yesterday, the whole team now knows what it has to do. The decision that came down from the IOC on Tuesday may have been a hammer blow to the wrestling community at large, but the Quakers are mature enough to focus on the task at hand.
“Guys on the team right now are focused on the season and being an All-American national champ,” Eiter said, “The decision is something that the guys are obviously upset about, but for us it’s business as usual.”
And for Penn these days, “business as usual” usually results in a win.
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