With the Black Knights set to invade Penn wrestling’s territory this Sunday, both squads seek the same thing: a third straight dual win.
The Quakers (4-3, 3-1 EIWA), who took down Binghamton and Bucknell last weekend, will be looking to extend their Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association success and build their confidence during a crucial time in the season against Army (5-3, 4-3).
The Knights, who have won three of their last four duals, seized their last two against American and Harvard by double digit margins. Army’s lone loss in 2014 came at the hands of Boston, a squad Penn dominated in December.
The Quakers are looking to get two of their most important wrestlers, senior Andrew Lenzi and freshman Caleb Richardson, back after the pair missed last weekend’s duals.
Penn coach Rob Eiter was satisfied with the squad’s performance last weekend given the absence of Lenzi and Richardson.
“With [Richardson and Lenzi] out, we’ve been fortunate with how things have gone,” Eiter said. “That’s important for team morale to know that we can still perform and win dual meets without two of our leaders.
“It’s been a good opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up.”
One young Penn grappler that has stepped up recently is freshman 133-pounder Ken Bade, who won both his matches and earned his first pin of his dual career last weekend.
“He wrestled great the last two weekends,” Eiter said. “His confidence is there, you can see it. He’s actually made that transition where he’s taken what he’s learned in his losses and used it for his style. It’s a huge thing for a young kid like that.”
Army, while lacking any ranked grapplers, does have strength in the middleweight ranks, which will make for some intriguing matchups.
At 165 pounds, Penn sophomore Casey Kent, who boasts a team-best 6-1 dual record and is coming off back-to-back bonus point victories, will challenge Army’s Chandler Smith. Smith, a junior, has posted an Army team-high 25 victories and is undefeated in dual matches this season.
The 157-pound match features a showdown between 14-6 Penn sophomore Ray Bethea and Army senior Paul Hancock, who has put up 17 wins, five of which have come by major decision.
Penn junior Jeff Canfora, who entered the season without much job security in the 141-pound class – a new weight class for the junior – appears to have hit his stride. Canfora is 3-0 in dual bouts in the new year and has won six of his last seven matches.
“It’s a little bit of getting used to the weight and a little bit of just trusting myself more in the matches and opening up,” Canfora said about his recent success.
Although Army is not a familiar foe for the Quakers, Penn’s grapplers are not worried – they are confident in their respective styles regardless of the opponent.
“I’m just going to go in there and try to wrestle my style. I’m not too concerned about what [my opponent does],” Canfora said in a quote that could have applied to the entire team.
The Quakers should feel good about their chances against this Army team, but they know the Black Knights will make them earn every point.
“They’re a hard-nosed team,” Eiter said. “They’re a grind-it-out type team. It should be a good dual.”
Canfora emphasized the importance of the dual.
“It’s definitely a big match momentum-wise. A win going into the biggest [conference dual] we’re going to have in Cornell, a team we haven’t beaten in a while, is definitely going to build some momentum.”
“Penn wrestling hopes to make the grade over winter break”: http://www.thedp.com/r/2d537bc0