Patience is running low for the Quakers.
After losing their previous two duals – to No. 21 Bloomsburg and No. 23 Lehigh – and submitting an unremarkable performance at the Southern Scuffle, the going didn’t get any easier – or better – for Penn in Lincoln, who fell to eighth ranked Nebraska, 30-9.
The Quakers (2-3) remain without a signature victory, as the squad has yet to best a ranked opponent.
The Red and Blue mustered three wins against the stacked Huskers (7-0) in the dual, courtesy of Frank Mattiace, Jeff Canfora and Casey Kent.
“We knew going in that they were a real good team,” Penn coach Rob Eiter said. “It was a good test for the guys. They’re a real strong, physical team.”
The dual commenced at 197 pounds with Penn freshman Frank Mattiace, who got the Quakers off to a positive start with a 7-2 victory and improved his dual record to 3-2 this season.
“To start off the dual was real exciting for me because usually I don’t get that opportunity,” Mattiace said. “This week I went into my match knowing I needed to work on my hand fighting and being more aggressive, and that’s what I did to get some extra points.”
Leading 3-0, Penn sent senior Steve Graziano to the mat, who was seeking his first dual win of the season. Facing a redshirt freshman, Collin Jensen, Graziano fell 9-3 after leading 3-1 early in the bout.
With the dual knotted up 3-3 and Penn freshman Caleb Richardson out with an injury, classmate Jeremy Schwartz stepped in for Penn in the 125-pound match. Schwartz, who faced a challenge in his first dual match as a Quaker against 11th ranked Tim Lambert, failed to put up much of fight, losing a 15-3 decision.
In the 133-pound bout, Penn freshman Ken Bade lost a tightly contested match, 6-3, to Shawn Nagel. Bade, who brought a 1-3 dual record into Lincoln, fell behind, 4-1, after one, and made the score 4-3 with a reversal with 45 seconds remaining.
But Nagel promptly countered with a reversal of his own to secure the win, extending the Huskers’ lead to 10-3.
Just when it seemed the dual was slipping away for the Quakers, Penn junior Jeff Canfora mustered a much-needed 5-2 win over Colton McCrystal in the 141-pound bout. Canfora’s second dual victory of the season trimmed the deficit to just four, as the Quakers trailed 10-6 midway through the dual.
Penn 149-pound senior Andrew Lenzi, facing No. 4 Jake Sueflohn, couldn’t string a pair of victories together for the Quakers, however, as he got pinned 4:53 into the match. With the loss, Lenzi dropped to 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, and the Huskers grew their lead to 16-6.
The 157-pound bout featured a difficult test for Penn sophomore Ray Bethea, who squared off with No. 3 James Green, a two time All-American undefeated in the 2013-2014 season. Bethea found himself overpowered by the veteran Green, losing a 19-4 decision.
Next came what was the most even match of the dual on paper, No. 19 Casey Kent of Penn vs. No. 17 Austin Wilson at 165 pounds. Not surprisingly, the bout came down to the wire, with Kent edging Wilson 3-2 to make the score 21-9 with two fights remaining. The decision gave Kent a team-high third win over a ranked opponent, and also some revenge, as he was bested 6-3 by Wilson last season at Midlands.
“Casey’s wrestled [Wilson] before, so he knew his style,” Eiter said. “Casey continues to do what he does – win and get his hand raised.”
Penn senior Zach Agostino, making his first dual appearance of the year, looked to shrink the gap further against No. 4 Robert Kokesh in the 174-pound match. However, Kokesh made sure the Nebraska lead widened, pinning Agostino at 4:50 to give the Huskers a sizable 27-9 lead.
The rather lopsided dual concluded with a good matchup at 184 pounds, as Penn’s highest ranked wrestler, No. 10 Lorenzo Thomas, squared off with No. 13 T.J. Dudley. Thomas led 4-2 entering the third period, but Dudley stormed back late to snatch a 9-6 decision, making the final score 30-9 in favor of Nebraska.
Following a gauntlet of elite competition, the Quakers look to get back on their feet back at the Palestra on Friday, Jan. 17, against 1-7 Binghamton.