With an old rival coming to town, a fresh, young Penn wrestling squad will look to make a statement at the Palestra on Sunday.
While No. 23 Lehigh (4-3) is a familiar foe for Penn (2-1), this young Quakers team has very limited experience against the Mountain Hawks. Only three wrestlers who took on Lehigh last season — seniors Andrew Lenzi and Steven Graziano, as well as sophomore Casey Kent — are in the lineup for this weekend. There will also be no rematches from last year’s dual.
The Hawks have faced a tough schedule thus far, as they have already done battle with four ranked squads. Lehigh swept its three most recent matchups at the Northeast Duals last weekend, including an impressive 19-14 victory over No. 11 Virginia.
But the Hawks will be carrying more than just momentum into this Sunday’s showdown.
After being upset by Penn, 24-12, last season, Lehigh is out for revenge.
The Hawks will have their hands full going up against the 165-pound Kent, who is undefeated in dual meets this year. Remarkably, he has yet to give up a takedown in a dual this season.
Kent stressed the importance of being prepared and energized for a likely fiery Lehigh team.
“It’s a big match for us,” Kent said. “They’re gonna be pissed from last year. They’re going to come back for some revenge, but we’re at home this year.
“We’ve just gotta be ready for them.”
This weekend’s dual represents a great challenge for the Red and Blue, but according to coach Rob Eiter, the Quakers seem primed to step up.
Eiter said he observed a unique intensity at practice on Tuesday and applauded the team’s “attitude of business.”
The most challenging matches for Penn this weekend will likely come at 133 and 157 pounds, as Lehigh boasts undefeated top 10 grapplers at each class. Freshman Ken Bade will take on Lehigh’s Mason Beckman at 133 pounds, while sophomore Ray Bethea is set to face Lehigh’s Joey Napoli, the defending EIWA champion at 157 pounds.
Penn’s three ranked wrestlers in the lineup will not be competing against ranked opponents, but they will each be facing a grappler with a winning record.
No. 13 Kent will do battle with Hawks freshman Brian Brill at 165 pounds. No. 9 Lorenzo Thomas, who leads the Quakers with five wins by fall, will square off at 184 pounds against Zach Diekel, and
No. 19 Frank Mattiace will face off against John Bolich at 197 pounds.
Because there will be no ranked opponents going head to head, Eiter recognized that most matchups will have a clear on-paper favorite, but he pointed out that “there are one or two weight classes that are up for grabs.”
The matches at 125 and 285 pounds, which feature rookie Caleb Richardson and Graziano respectively, could be the two matches Eiter is referring to, as they feature grapplers with similar records.
All indicators point to an intense, highly competitive dual on Sunday at the Palestra.
“Matchup-wise, I look for competitive matches up and down the lineup,” Eiter said. “We match up so well with each other.”
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