With just a handful of conference duals standing between now and the end of the regular season, the Quakers need to make every second on the mats count.
Penn wrestling will hit the road to take on two conference foes this weekend. The Quakers (4-5) will do battle with Harvard on Feb. 7 before visiting Brown the following afternoon.
After falling to Cornell, 32-(-1), in an embarrassing dual at home on Feb. 1, this weekend’s doubleheader will give the Quakers a chance to pick themselves up and re-establish their confidence on the mats.
“It was a tough loss,” coach Rob Eiter said about the Cornell defeat. “But if you step back and look at it, we were in almost every single set. We just didn’t get that break or that call that we were hoping to get.”
Nevertheless, Penn is not downtrodden after being shut out.
“I thought we competed very well, but the tiny little things we need to do better,” Eiter said. “That’s what is going to get us to win those top-five bouts.”
Those little things, like attention to detail, will be a crucial component of Penn’s game plan in its duals against Harvard (3-4) and Brown (1-6). Despite Brown’s subpar record, both teams will pose stiff competition for the Quakers.
“Brown is in a little bit of a different situation with a new coach,” Eiter said. “Their record doesn’t show that they’ve improved quite a bit.
“In years past, we usually had our way with them, but they’re going to come out and be ready to go.”
The weekend’s most anticipated match will occur between Penn junior No. 13 Lorenzo Thomas and Brown’s No. 14 Ophir Bernstein in the 184-pound weightclass. The pair last met at the East Stroudsburg Open in November, where Thomas defeated Bernstein, 10-6.
“They are probably two of the more unorthodox wrestlers [in the Ivy League],” Eiter explained.
“There’s going to be absolutely no technique involved.”
For Thomas, a lack of technique might be just the change of pace he needs. In his third year with Penn, the Pittsburgh native is winless against top-20 wrestlers, having dropped all five of those bouts this season.
Penn’s duals against Harvard and Brown mark the first of three consecutive weekends of conference play for the Quakers. With just one month left in the regular season, the Red and the Blue will have to make the most of every dual to prepare for the EIWA Conference Championships. Penn is likely to compete against some of the best wrestlers in Division I at the Championships, with teams like Cornell, Navy and Lehigh sending their top talent forward.
“When you’re going against some higher-level competition, you’ve got to pay attention to small details because one wrong attempt or one wrong try and we may not get another opportunity,” Eiter said. “We’ve got to capitalize while we can.”
And capitalize on the Crimson and Bears is just what the Red and the Blue hope to do.