After a less than stellar winter break, Penn wrestling needed some sort of success to right the ship before opening Ivy play. In consecutive meets this past weekend, the Quakers did exactly that.
The Red and Blue flexed their muscles on Saturday with comfortable back-to-back wins against Lock Haven and Army in their home opener. Penn’s own C.J. Cobb added to that success by notching a tournament win at the Shorty Hitchcock Classic.
In the two matchups at the Palestra, the Red and the Blue beat Lock Haven, 22-9, and Army, 30-6.
“It was a pretty strong showing,” coach Alex Tirapelle admitted. “We won a lot of tough [individual] matches.”
Penn’s first matchup against the Bald Eagles on Saturday proved to be the bigger challenge of the two.
After initially trailing Lock Haven, 3-0, hard-fought battles from seniors Brad Wukie, Lorenzo Thomas, Canaan Bethea and freshman Patrik Garren helped the Quakers flip the script.
While the Bald Eagles (3-8) recovered somewhat, the Quakers (3-3) managed to extend their lead with wins from Cobb and sophomore Caleb Richardson – among others – to emerge victorious.
Saturday’s second match saw Penn taking on its rivals from Army. Entering the match, the Red and Blue sought to avenge last season’s 21-13 loss to the Black Knights.
Mission accomplished. This time, it was all Penn.
Junior Ray Bethea, competing in his first match since November due to injury, picked up a narrow 9-7 win over the Black Knights’ Cole Gracey to give Penn an early 3-0 lead.
While Army’s Brian Harvey managed to best Wukie to knot the score at three apiece, a win by Thomas opened the way for a dominant streak for the Quakers.
Penn increased its lead sevenfold to 21-3 before Army found a way to respond. The Red and Blue’s streak included victories from Canaan Bethea, Garren, sophomore Jeremy Schwartz and Richardson.
“I did exactly what I wanted to do,” Richardson said after securing his second victory of the day, this time over Army’s Christian Doyle. “It was very relaxed.”
While the Black Knights’ Logan Everett secured a few consolation points by overcoming Penn’s senior Jeff Canfora to make the total score 21-6, the match’s two concluding bouts both went the Quakers’ way.
In the penultimate matchup, Cobb grabbed his second win of the day, overpowering Army’s Andrew Mendel 22-7.
“I did better in the second match,” Cobb said. “I did a lot of leg attacks and stuff like that.”
“I’m getting back to the wrestling that I like to do,” he continued, acknowledging improvements in his own performance compared to earlier weeks.
After recovering from an early season knee injury, Cobb’s Saturday wins were reassuring for the junior.
“To see myself be able to be aggressive and get a lot of different takedowns means a lot,” Cobb concluded.
Junior Brooks Martino wrapped up Saturday’s action with a 14-0 shutout against Javier Rodriguez.
Fresh off two wins, the squad is ready to turn its attention to what really matters: Ivy play beginning with next weekend’s matchup against Cornell.
“It’s a very big match for us — for me individually and for the team,” said Richardson — who has history at Cornell.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance,” Tirapelle pointed out about Saturday’s wins. “But it’s another stepping stone.”
To add to the successes of Sunday, Cobb managed to come out on top in the 149 pound-class at the Shorty Hitchcock Memorial Classic tournament at Millersville University after five consecutive wins. Canfora and Ray Bethea also had strong showings at the tournament.
Overall, the weekend showcased the multifaceted strength of Penn wrestling. Whether they can keep up the form in future meets, however, remains to be seen.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.