While not grappling at the Palestra, Penn wrestling will finish up the home stretch of its dual season close to campus this weekend.
The Red and Blue (6-6), coming off a 24-10 victory against Columbia, are slated for a Saturday doubleheader against nearby Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association foes Princeton and Drexel.
While Penn has won 22 straight duals against Princeton (11-2), the Tigers will be hungry for a home win, which would snap their lengthy losing streak to the Quakers and also add to their current six-dual win streak.
Penn coach Rob Eiter has made it a point not to underestimate Princeton, which leads the EIWA in conference wins and has improved significantly from last season.
“Princeton is a team that you can’t take lightly,” Eiter said. “It’s gonna be different. They’re wrestling on a lot of emotion right now.
“This is Princeton’s season right here, so we’ve gotta make sure the team understands that going into their gym.”
Junior Adam Krop, at 149-pounds, leads the Tigers in victories with 26 and has won 13 of his last 15 duals. Penn captain Andrew Lenzi will be looking for his fourth straight dual win against Krop on Saturday after beating Columbia’s Ryan Ponte last weekend.
The 197-pound match between Penn and Princeton features a pair of grapplers that share local roots.
Penn freshman Frank Mattiace and Princeton sophomore Abe Ayala , who attended Blair Academy in New Jersey at the same time, will go toe-to-toe on Saturday.
Mattiace said he was excited for the match, but that he wouldn’t let the familiarity affect his approach.
Mattiace , who had a bounce-back win last weekend, also talked about the importance of his and the team’s performances against Columbia, which came on the heels of a loss the week before against Brown.
“It was important to focus and get a win last week, especially as we’re getting ready for the postseason,” Mattiace said.
Penn’s final dual before the EIWA Championships - its matchup with Drexel - comes just hours after the squad finishes up in Princeton.
Drexel (7-13), also but not quite to the extent of Princeton, has performed better this season than in years past. No. 17 Brandon Palik, who wrestles at 197 pounds, is Drexel’s top grappler.
But Penn comes in with history on its side, having shut out the Dragons, 37-0, last season, highlighted by the performance of then-freshman Casey Kent.
If winning its last dual of the season is not incentive enough for Penn against the Dragons, something extra is in play for the first time ever in the Penn-Drexel matchup.
“We’ve been talking about trying to create a rivalry with Drexel’s coach,” Eiter said.
“He has a trophy - it’s a cheesesteak. So we’re gonna battle for the cheesesteak.”
May the best squad feast.
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