It may have been the preseason but the Quakers just took part in one of their loudest and most well-attended events.
On Saturday, two Penn wrestlers, seniors Lorenzo Thomas and CJ Cobb, represented the Quakers in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic in front of over 5,000 fans. The Palestra was electrified as it witnessed the No. 20 Cobb drop a close match against Virginia Tech senior No. 3 Devin Carter in the 149-pound showcase event and the No. 3 Thomas destroy senior Clint Morrison of Rider in the 184-pound showcase.
“It was a great experience to wrestle in front of 5000-plus people,” coach Alex Tirapelle said. “That’s always fun. Just kind of getting the butterflies out.”
Cobb, who took last year off from wrestling to focus on academics, looked solid in his first time out on the mat. Facing the highly ranked Carter, Cobb jumped out to an early lead and was still up at the conclusion of the first period.
“I was really happy with how I was doing [in the first period],” Cobb said. “I was pumped. [Carter] is No. 3 in the class, a national finalist and, in my opinion, he’s a really, really good wrestler.”
Carter took a 9-6 lead by the end of the second period, but Cobb closed the gap early in the third to 10-9 after an escape followed by a takedown. Carter eventually ran away with it in the third period, winning by a score of 17-10, but Cobb was pleased with his gritty performance.
“I went out there and got takedowns and hit my moves like [I would] on someone that’s not as good [as Carter] — that gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Both Cobb and Carter are New Jersey natives, so they are familiar with each other’s styles, having wrestled each other in the past.
“He did what I expected,” Cobb said. ” I did better than I expected ... Last time we wrestled, I couldn’t get any takedowns on him.”
Tirapelle was pleased with Cobb’s performance as well.
“It was a good performance,” he said. “It’s good to get that first match under the belt, especially for a guy like CJ, who’s been off for awhile.”
Thomas made quick work of the unranked Morrison in his bout, needing only 5:32 to win, 16-1, on the technical fall. Thomas dominated throughout the matchup, logging a number of back points. The match culminated in an illegal hold call on Morrison that gave Thomas the victory in what he hopes should prepare him for the upcoming season.
“We’ve got a match coming up in two weeks, so this was good preparation for that,” Thomas said.
Both Thomas and Tirapelle took the time to check out Cornell sophomore Gabe Dean in his victory over Old Dominion sophomore Jack Dechow, who is No. 2 in the 184-pound weightclass. Dean, who is ranked No. 1 at 184 pounds, defeated Thomas at the NCAA Championships last year.
“I watched the match,” Thomas said. “It was good to see the top two guys in my class.”
“You can’t help but notice things that they do,” Tirapelle added. “You make mental notes.”
However, the real goal of the night was for the two seniors to work out the rust of the offseason and display their talents in front of a roaring, eager crowd.
“I wasn’t out there thinking, ‘If I do this and that, I’ll win the match,’” Cobb said. “For me, it was just about having fun.”
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