For Penn wrestling, the plan is simple as it enters the final stretch of the season: just compete and let the results unfold as they may.
“We’re gonna go out and wrestle hard and see what happens,” coach Rob Eiter said about this weekend’s home dual against Columbia (6-4), a team that demands respect.
Perspective factors in largely in the Quakers’ mindset. They have no title to defend, no winning streak to maintain.
“There’s no pressure anymore,” Eiter said. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
After a subpar overall performance at Brown , the Red and Blue (5-6) are looking to bounce back against a Columbia squad that has won five of its last six duals.
The Quakers are also seeking to reverse their fortunes at the Palestra, a site where they are just 1-3 at this season. And what better time to do that than this Saturday, which is Senior Day for Penn?
While the Quakers’ lineup does not feature a set of high-profile seniors, this year’s graduating class is highly respected.
“Some of them were [part of] my first or second recruiting class,” Eiter said. “They’re good, solid kids that are very important pieces to the program.”
Captain Andrew Lenzi echoed Eiter, saying, “The guys who are graduating have been an instrumental part of our team.”
Heavyweight Steve Graziano, who is 2-2 against Ivy League opponents this season, is one of a few seniors expected to compete on Saturday.
Penn will also put a senior on the mats for the 174-pound bout, whether it be Zach Agostino or Brad Wukie who gets the call. Whoever does grapple will have his hands full, as No. 10 Shane Hughes, who is 7-1 in duals this season, will be the opponent in waiting.
No. 20 Josh Houldsworth, who competes at 165 pounds, is the Lions’ other ranked grappler. Houldsworth is set to take on one of Penn’s best, No. 17 Casey Kent.
Kent is looking to best Houldsworth for the second straight time, as he won last year’s matchup, 1-0.
“He’s by far our most consistent kid right now,” Eiter said of Kent. Eiter also called Houldsworth “very smart.”
“It’ll be a good match, that’s for sure.”
A win Saturday would give Penn a chance to finish with a winning dual record — both overall and in the Ivy League.
Saturday also provides a platform for the Quakers to wrestle up to their own standards and also gain confidence.
“The [Brown dual] was not a reflection of the quality and talent level of our team by any standard,” Lenzi said.
“Once you get some wins under your belt, you start to gain confidence, but a couple bad losses can hurt that confidence. It’s important to build that confidence and maintain it.”
The Quakers will look to do just that on Saturday as they march toward championship season.
“All bets are off right now,” Eiter said. “Let’s strap on the boots, and let’s get it on.”
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