If there is one adjective to describe the Penn wrestling team’s performance this weekend, it would be “big.”
Big stage. For the first time in program history, the Quakers competed in the Grapple at the Garden tournament in Madison Square Garden. The men went into their dual meets against Boston and No. 21 Bloomsburg as if the mats were at any given venue. But the Garden has a certain luster about it.
“It was pretty neat,” junior Lorenzo Thomas said. “They had some fireworks going on when we walked in, so it was a cool experience.”
Big goals. Penn headed into the tournament expecting tough competition from both teams, particularly Bloomsburg. The Quakers pulled off a 29-9 victory over Boston, but fell to Bloomsburg, 21-16.
Penn (2-1) claimed seven of 10 bouts over Boston (0-2), never trailing and getting a lift from freshman Caleb RIchardson’s dual-opening win.
Bloomsburg, though, proved much tougher sledding early and often.
“Bloomsburg is a heavily senior-loaded team, and we are fairly young, so it would have been a real nice victory for us,” coach Rob Eiter said. “They are a blue-collar team. They’re big and strong, and they wrestle well. There were a lot of opportunities we let slip by us a little bit.”
Penn hoped to come out of the weekend with a win over Bloomsburg (2-2), but settled for an electric victory from No. 19 sophomore Casey Kent in the 165-pound weightclass. Kent decisively defeated Bloomsburg’s No. 7 Josh Veltre, 12-1.
“I had a close match with [Veltre] at the Keystone Classic, and I should have won that match,” Kent said. “I felt pretty good going into my match today … my main focus going in was to beat that kid.”
Kent was one of three Quakers that went 2-0 in matches this weekend. Joining Kent are Caleb Richardson and No. 9 Lorenzo Thomas in the 125-pound and 184-pound weightclasses, respectively.
Big victories. Thomas came through for Penn in its dual against Bloomsburg, giving them valuable bonus points and putting the Red and Blue ahead, albeit only fleetingly.
“This was a weekend where we knew we needed to get bonus points, because it would be close matches between BU and Bloomsburg,” Thomas said. “A highlight was getting both pins so I could get bonus points for the team.”
“Lorenzo Thomas getting a much-needed win for us to put us ahead [against Bloomsburg],” he said. “That was a good point for us.”
Coming into the weekend, Eiter told his team to “go out and wrestle big and try to score the points.”
And wrestle big is just what the Quakers did.
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