As excruciating as it might be, some things are simply worth waiting for.
And for Penn senior Micah Burak, finally winning an Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championship title in the 197-pound weightclass after being a runner-up three times in a row was definitely worth the wait.
“Micah’s had an immediate impact since his freshman year and has been as consistent as you can be for a wrestler throughout a four-year career,” coach Rob Eiter said. “To finally go out with a title is only fitting for him.”
After hitting a wall named Cam Simaz in his three previous EIWA finals, first-seeded Burak took advantage of the graduation of last year’s NCAA and EIWA Champion to seize the Quakers’ first EIWA title at 197 since Mike Fickell in 2001.
Burak cruised past his opponents during the two days in Piscataway, N.J., as he defeated his first three rivals by a combined score of 18-3 before scoring the final’s only two takedowns as he beat the No. 2 seed, Harvard’s James Fox, by a score of 6-3.
“Sometimes when you’re competing and especially in wrestling where it’s one-on-one it’s easy to be afraid,” Burak said. “So being a Christian I do a lot of praying to say ‘I won’t be afraid’ and so that God will make me strong, I won’t get tired and I’ll fight really hard.”
The returning All-American, though, will step on the mats one last time at the upcoming NCAA Championships, which will take place in Des Moines, Iowa, from March 21-23. After reaching seventh place last year, Burak has higher ambitions this time around.
“[Kent State’s No. 1 Dustin Kilgore] is awful darn good but so is Micah,” Eiter said. “It’s like any other NCAA tournament — just because you’re the No. 1 ranked guy doesn’t really mean a heck of a lot. Micah definitely has the skills and the mindset and desire to go in there to win it so there’s no doubt in my mind he can do it.”
For the Red and Blue’s other two wrestlers ranked among the nation’s top 10, No. 2 seed senior Mark Rappo (125 pounds) and No. 3 seed sophomore C.J. Cobb (141), the weekend ended in disappointment as both lost their respective title bouts. Rappo fell, 6-1, to top-seeded Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, while Cobb couldn’t overcome a late escape by Franklin & Marshall’s fifth-seeded Richard Durso, ultimately losing, 5-4.
“[Rappo and Cobb] are both great competitors and it definitely hurt losing those two matches but we still have next weekend and they’ll be ready,” Eiter said. “They’re not going to feel sorry or anything like that, they’re looking forward to next weekend and definitely will learn from those two matches.”
Eiter was also quick to praise the performances of sophomores Jeff Canfora (133) and Ian Korb (174) and junior Steven Graziano (285). Canfora, the No. 7 seed, finished fourth. Meanwhile, the sixth-seeded Graziano finished fifth after defeating top-seeded Billy Smith of Rutgers, 3-2.
Korb, the No. 5 seed, secured an automatic bid to the NCAAs with a 4-3 victory over Princeton’s Ryan Callahan in the consolation semifinals. He then edged out Rutgers’ Greg Zanetti, 2-1, to finish third on the day. Junior Canaan Bethea (184) also got a bid thanks to his fifth -place finish.
Last but not least for the Quakers are the NCAAs, which Eiter approaches with confidence after his team’s third-place finish at the EIWAs.
“In all honesty, at the end of the day, at this time of the year with the [national] tournament coming up it’s really an attitude, and I think the guys are in a good spot right now,” Eiter said. “We’ll definitely work on a few things — a few tactics, a few strategies and a little bit of technique — and then have fun in Iowa, if that’s possible.”
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