The Palestra will see some serious star power on Sunday.
Penn wrestling will host the Keystone Classic tournament, welcoming Drexel, Northwestern, Pittsburgh and Stanford, among others. Last year, the 12 teams that competed at the Classic combined to send 49 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.
Coach Alex Tirapelle is specifically looking forward to having his team wrestle against Stanford, where Tirapelle was an assistant coach until he took over the Red and Blue’s head job this season.
“It’ll be fun,” Tirapelle said. “I’m looking forward to it, actually. The colleagues and I trade texts and e-mails and phone calls — I’m always following them to see how they did the past weekend. I try to razz them a bit, and they razz me.”
Senior 184-pounder Lorenzo Thomas is also looking forward to Sunday. Thomas will carry some momentum after winning the 184-pound title in the East Stroudsburg Open last Sunday. In addition, Thomas won his weight class in last year’s Keystone Classic.
“I expect a good performance,” Tirapelle said of Thomas. “He looked good [on Sunday], and he wrestled some pretty good competition. He went about his business, as always.”
Thomas will likely face off at some point in the day against Pitt senior 184-pounder Max Thomusseit , who is currently ranked No. 4 in the weight class to Thomas’ No. 3 ranking.
Thomas is excited to face Thomusseit, especially since he wasn’t able to wrestle him at last year’s Classic as Thomusseit recuperated from an injury.
“He’s a high-quality kid,” Tirapelle added. “There are a lot of quality kids in the weight ... It’ll be a couple-score match — if one score goes the opposite way, you can end up on the short end of the stick.”
Tirapelle won’t be the only one to recognize some familiar faces from across the mat.
“I know a majority of the guys of the Pitt team,” said Thomas — a Pittsburgh native — cracking a smile.
Sunday’s meet will bring 19 wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their weight class to the Palestra. Some notables include sophomore 149-pounder Jason Tsirtsis and senior heavyweight Mike McMullan , both from Northwestern and both ranked first in their respective classes.
“[Facing Tsirtsis] is a tall order,” Tirapelle said. “He’s a national champion. The guy’s legit.”
If a Penn wrestler is to face Tsirtsis, the duty will likely be left to senior Jeff Canfora . Senior C.J. Cobb is still day-to-day after having suffered an injury in practice last week and is doubtful for Sunday’s tournament.
However, Tirapelle believes Canfora — or any wrestler the Quakers send out, for that matter — is up to the challenge of facing the national champion.
“He’s definitely prepared to compete with him,” Tirapelle said. “Every time we step on the mat, we expect to win.”
Another notable performer to watch is sophomore 174-pounder Dan McDevitt , who finished as runner-up at the ESU Open. All of this came after McDevitt won a combined six matches over his entire freshman year.
McDevitt believes that combinations the team worked on in the preseason were the keys to his success. He also credits summer workouts with his club coach, former Harvard wrestler Craig Vitagliano , as helpful in his development.
McDevitt could face off against another highly ranked wrestler in Pitt senior Tyler Wilps , who is No. 5 in the class.
“I look forward to it,” McDevitt said of the possibility of wrestling Wilps. “It would be a great challenge.”
This sounds like a mantra for what should be a highly competitive tournament on Sunday.
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