Penn wrestling will sport a much different look this year.
The most prominent change, of course, is among the coaching ranks, where coach Alex Tirapelle has replaced Rob Eiter after Eiter resigned last May. Tirapelle is also joined on the staff by new addition assistant coach Pete Friedl , who was Tirapelle’s teammate while wrestling at Illinois.
The lineup for dual meets will also be quite different, as it appears that only two or three wrestlers will return to the same weight class as they competed in last year.
With so much turnover, it’ll be difficult for Tirapelle to determine who will wrestle in which class in dual meets until the team participates in its first competition, a tournament at East Stroudsburg on Sunday.
“I have an idea from seeing what guys have done in the [wrestling] room, but obviously, the room and the competition mat are two different animals,” Tirapelle said. “We’ll have a better idea after this weekend after we see all the able-bodied guys we have compete, where we have some depth, where we can make some shifts and do some things for the duals.”
In addition to evaluating each wrestler, Tirapelle sees the meet as a good opportunity for the athletes to get into competition mode , especially as they look ahead to important dual meets against rivals Lehigh and Cornell later in the season.
“They’ve put in a long preseason. … How many weeks have they just been wrestling each other, beating up on each other?” Tirapelle chuckled. “It’s nice to get some fresh faces in there.”
Senior Andrew Lenzi agrees.
“East Stroudsburg is a stepping stone for the season,” he said. “I think it’s a good tournament for people to get their feet wet in.
“For a lot of freshmen , it’s the first taste of competition, so it’s really just a stepping stone . It’ll give people a read of where they’re at and what they need to improve going throughout the season.”
Lenzi is a stalwart of Red and Blue wrestling, as he is embarking upon his fourth year as a member of the team and has served as team captain since last season. However, he will be occupying a new role as well, as he will drop from the 149-pound weight class to 141.
“It’s a process of fine-tuning,” Tirapelle said of the change.
Lenzi isn’t letting the adjustment bother him at all.
“My focus this season is to wrestle my best,” he said. “Not worrying about winning or losing, just wrestling my best, going out there and competing, just fulfilling my potential — that’s what I’m seeking to do, and the rest will take care of itself. “
Other wrestlers that will shift weight classes include sophomore Caleb Richardson , who will bump up to 133 from 125, and senior C.J. Cobb , who will be at 149 pounds after competing at 141 when he last wrestled for Penn as a sophomore.
One constant, however, is senior co-captain Lorenzo Thomas , who will compete at his usual 184 pounds. Thomas, an All-American last year and the Quakers’ best wrestler, is looking forward to possibly facing Brown senior Ophir Bernstein , who was also an All-American last year. Thomas has also tried to provide a source of steady leadership for the transitioning team.
Despite all of the changes, however, it boils down to a simple formula for Tirapelle.
“You’ve got to make the weight, and you’ve got to perform.”
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