When Penn wrestling hosts Harvard at the Palestra Saturday, it won’t be an event for culinary enthusiasts. The reason why? Only one dish will be served that day, and it’ll be cold.
Revenge will be the lone item on the menu, as the Quakers (5-3, 0-1 Ivy) will try to avoid a repeat of last year’s 23-19 loss to the Crimson (3-4, 0-1) — Penn’s first since 1990.
“It’s turned into a pretty decent rivalry,” coach Rob Eiter said. “They got a real good team, they kind of came out of nowhere [and] beat us last year in a good match and I think they’re actually a better team this year than they were last year.”
And for sophomores C.J. Cobb, who is ranked ninth in the 141-pound weightclass, and Ian Korb (174 pounds), the Harvard bout has a very special meaning.
In the marquee matchup of the day, Cobb will battle once again against No. 13 Steven Keith. Cobb is 1-3 against the Crimson’s returning All-American, but managed to defeat him 4-0 in the semifinals of the Keystone Classic on Nov. 18 at the Palestra.
“It will be good for me because I get to gauge where I’m at,” Cobb said. “I wrestled him in early December and now it’s the beginning of February so I get to see how much better I got.
“He has a good balance, good hips. He hits the reshot, which is the main thing I have to watch out for — he won’t attack but [when] I’ll attack he’ll retaliate.”
The victory over Keith and subsequent Keystone Classic title jumpstarted Cobb’s remarkable season, and Eiter is confident that his grappler can repeat his earlier success.
“C.J.’s a pretty savvy wrestler, he understands Keith’s best positions and will obviously try to stay out of these,” he said.
“But C.J.’s pretty good all-around, there’s not an area where he’s weaker. Keith’s strength is on top and most coaches in other teams will tend to stay away from that position, whereas we feel pretty comfortable that if C.J. is put in that position he’s going to get back and score.”
In the meantime, Korb is hoping to avenge a last-second, 5-3 overtime defeat at the hands of Harvard’s Cameron Croy during the Midlands Championships in late December.
Korb, who’s 5-1 against Ivy foes so far this season, knows that he will have to be more aggressive if he wants to have the last laugh this time around — both by beating Croy and helping the Quakers defeat the Crimson.
“I’m worried about Harvard — I think the whole team’s worried about Harvard,” Korb said. “It’s going to come down to who has more guts in that dual because in pretty much every weightclass we’re dead even with Harvard. And we don’t want to lose to Harvard.”
Later the same day, the Red and Blue will also host Brown (6-5, 0-1), whom they defeated, 30-7, for the 20th time in a row last season. And while the Harvard matchup is bigger on paper, the team knows it can’t overlook the Bears.
“In all honesty Brown gave us a hell of a match last year. They came out firing and wrestled us real hard,” Eiter said. “The worst thing you can do is hit up for a big match against Harvard and then slip in a lesser match against Brown.”
In the end, though, Eiter’s team will have only one goal in mind this weekend — and that is to make the Crimson leave the Palestra with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouth.
“On one end, if we wrestle really good, we could beat them real bad,” Cobb said. “[But] if we wrestle real bad, we could lose.”
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