Penn may not boast many All-American athletes, but senior wrestler Lorenzo Thomas is anything but boastful about his resume.
The 184-pounder, ranked No. 4 in the nation, looks to build on his success from last season in which he finished sixth at the NCAA tournament and second at the EIWA conference tournament in his weight class.
“He’s not a guy who’s looking at what he did last year and walking around like he’s done something,” coach Alex Tirapelle said of his captain’s resolve. “He’s training like he’s got something to prove.”
Thomas might be a lock to earn Ivy glory to outside observers, but he certainly isn’t viewing himself as such. He’ll face an uphill battle atop both the EIWA and NCAA rankings.
The InterMat preseason rankings include three other EIWA wrestlers in the top five. Atop the rankings is Cornell sophomore Gabe Dean, who finished third in the NCAA championships last year.
Thomas and Dean have a long history together. The two squared off three times last year, with Dean coming out the winner in all three matches. Dean held Thomas off by two points during the dual meet between Penn and Cornell and won by the same margin in the 184-pound finals at the EIWA championships.
In the consolation round of the NCAA tournament, Dean defeated Thomas by fall as time ticked down in the third period of the consolation semifinals.
Thomas is eager to get another crack at his Ivy rival.
“I’m excited,” Thomas said. “It will be nice to get back this year and hopefully finish ahead of him.”
But for the Quakers’ aspirations as a team, Thomas plays another invaluable role: that of off-mat leader. Both Tirapelle and Thomas’ teammates have cited the example he sets for the rest of the squad.
“It’s good to have an All-American in the room,” said junior Casey Kent, a co-captain alongside Thomas. “It gives you something to fight towards because that’s what we all want to be ... and to see that one of our own is able to do that, it makes it seem like we can do it.”
While he is determined on the mats, Thomas also possesses a lighter side outside of the wrestling room. Kent speaks fondly of his teammate — who lives under him — saying that Thomas has a love of cats and owns one in their off-campus house.
It was Thomas’ discipline, however, which carried him to a 30 win season in which he scored bonus points (won by pin or major decision) 14 times. It is likely that the Quakers will go only as far as Thomas can take them.
“We’re gonna lean on him as a leader ... as well as scoring points,” Tirapelle said. “If any one person is gonna be critical to our team’s success, I would say he would be my best bet.”
Still, as Tirapelle pointed out, Thomas’ performance on the mat can only bring the Quakers so far. There’s far more than the 184-pound match at play in a given dual meet. But his leadership will be especially important if the Red and Blue hope to challenge EIWA foes such as Lehigh, Cornell and Brown.
Thomas will begin his senior campaign Nov. 1 in the biggest preseason tournament in college wrestling. The NWCA All-Star Classic — which features numerous top five and top ten matchups — will take place at the Palestra.
It’s Thomas’ wrestling room now, and there’s no doubt he will be looking to add another banner to the rafters in what will likely be his final season wrestling for the Red and Blue.
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