If you look at this season’s Penn wrestling poster, and then take a glance at the squad’s current lineup, it would be difficult not to recognize the disparity.
Senior captain Andrew Lenzi is the only wrestler on the poster - which also features senior Canaan Bethea , junior C.J. Cobb and junior Steve Robertson - who has wrestled in more than three duals this season.
Bethea and Cobb, both at the top of the team ranks in wins last season, have not wrestled a match this year.
It has been a season filled with adjustments, surprises and obstacles for Penn. With everything that has been thrown at them these past three months, the Quakers could have easily fallen apart.
But they have repeatedly refused to let their circumstances get the best of them.
“We’ve had some trying times this year,” coach Rob Eiter said. “And the team is still plugging away and moving forward.”
The biggest hurdle for the Quakers has been the absence of Cobb, who was named a captain prior to the season. Cobb faced early injury concerns and decided not to compete over winter break.
“That scenario was hard for the team to take,” Eiter said. “We haven’t had situations like we’ve been through this year in years past.
“When things like that happen, it either divides the team or brings the team closer, and we went through both stages. At the end of the day, as I told the team, we [didn’t] have a choice - we [had] to come together.”
The Quakers’ captains have been instrumental in getting a young team where it needs to be after a spate of early trouble.
On a squad that witnessed considerable turnover, Lenzi and Casey Kent - who was named captain after Cobb decided not to compete - have been the two strongest constants.
Lenzi and Kent are the only wrestlers on this year’s squad that grappled in all 13 duals last season. This season, Kent has already matched his dual win total from last season of 10, and Lenzi has done the same with respect to victories over EIWA opponents (7).
While Kent serves as a model of consistency, Lenzi, the elder captain, uses his strong voice to make an impact.
“Casey’s been our most consistent performer, and that’s one of the things you look for in a captain,” Eiter said. “He’s a little bit more on the quiet side.”
According to Eiter, “Lenzi is more outspoken, very vocal, and very in tune with the team.”
The balance Penn’s leaders have been able to maintain has been critical, but it is more than the captains that have carried the team to where it is now.
Junior Lorenzo Thomas , who wrestles at 184-pounds and leads the Red and Blue with 20 wins, has taken on a more active leadership role.
“Lorenzo without a doubt leads by example,” Lenzi said. “And given his track record, he has the most credibility doing so. For a while he was leading by example, but now he’s starting to vocalize and motivate with words.”
For this young Red and Blue squad, wrestlers like Thomas, Lenzi and Kent serve a crucial role of setting a strong example for Penn’s potential-filled youth.
Eiter ultimately recognizes the number of obstacles this team has been forced to deal with and believes the challenges will make the future more fruitful.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be great for the morale of the team because we’ve made it through a lot together,” Eiter said. “We’re gonna be successful come the end of the year, and it’s gonna make that success that much greater because there’s so many obstacles we’ve faced this year.
“And that comes down to not only our captains, but also our team as a whole.”