“Overly focused, it’s far from the time to rest now,” rapper Drake insists on “Pound Cake,” a recent album.
The same goes for Penn wrestling, a team that issued a 24-10 pounding of Ivy League foe Columbia at the Palestra on Saturday.
After a letdown against Brown last weekend, the Quakers (6-6, 2-2 Ivy) knew they had to lock in and exhibit a more complete performance against a Lions squad that Penn coach Rob Eiter described as “blue collar.”
While the final score was lopsided, Columbia (6-5, 0-2) was every bit as tough as the Quakers expected. Most duals were tight - seven of Penn’s eight wins were decided by three points or less - and coach Eiter’s mantra of not letting up and wrestling a full seven minutes was as pertinent as ever.
“We really told [our wrestlers] that to win this dual meet we just have to continue to wrestle,” Eiter said. “The first one that stops loses.
“And that was pretty evident here. I think we wrestled through a lot of situations until we scored our point and then didn’t relax.”
Perhaps the biggest points of the day came fittingly from senior Steve Graziano as the Red and Blue celebrated Senior Day for its veteran wrestlers.
The heavyweight’s last home dual match remained close throughout, but Graziano came out on top after executing a monstrous takedown just seconds before time ran out to seize a 3-2 decision. The move brought the crowd and his teammates to their feet, producing the most electrifying moment in an afternoon that featured plenty of intensity.
“I was looking for my shot throughout the match,” Graziano said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before I was going to get to it.
“It was going to be a special match. I’m gonna remember this for a while.”
Eiter praised his heavyweight, saying: “He didn’t force anything. You could just tell he was going to win. He had that look of determination on his face.”
The Quakers appeared determined to take the dual from the jump, as wins from captain Andrew Lenzi and sophomores Ray Bethea and No. 17 Casey Kent helped the Red and Blue race out to a 9-0 lead.
The 165-pound match, the lone bout featuring two ranked wrestlers, was as contentious and close as expected.
Taking on a familiar opponent in No. 20 Josh Houldsworth, Kent used two takedowns to take a 4-2 lead heading into the final period. In the third, Kent did an impressive job fending off Houldsworth’s charges, refusing to draw a stall warning. Kent is now the first Penn wrestler with 10 dual victories on the season.
After Penn senior Zach Agostino was pinned by No. 10 Shane Hughes in the 174-pound bout, the Red and Blue ripped off four straight wins to make the overall score 21-6 and effectively seal the win.
No. 11 Lorenzo Thomas started off the run with a 3-1 decision in the 184-pound match against Columbia’s talented sophomore Zack Hernandez to earn his team-high fifth win against an Ivy League opponent.
197-pound freshman Frank Mattiace followed with a crucial 3-1 victory to snap a four-match losing streak.
“[He] needed that win to move forward,” Eiter said of Mattiace.
The final dual - at 141 pounds - marked a proper ending to a big afternoon for the Quakers. After falling behind 2-0, junior Jeff Canfora used an early second period surge to take a 5-2 lead, one he would not relinquish.
“Jeff Canfora was perfect,” Eiter said.
The superlatives did not stop there.
“They really banded together,” Eiter said. “From an effort standpoint, this is the most consistency we’ve had all year.”
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