It’s not every week that a Penn Athletics squad can boast wins in three of its last four competitions. But after consecutive victories against Lock Haven and Army, a valiant loss to No. 6 Cornell and a convincing win at Binghamton, Penn wrestling is on a hot streak — and people are starting to pay attention.
Led by the resurgence of senior 149-pounder C.J. Cobb, Penn is now tied for the No. 24 ranking by InterMat Wrestling.
A big boost for the Quakers came from the consistent performances by their star talent. The trio of seniors — Cobb, Lorenzo Thomas and Canaan Bethea — along with sophomore Caleb Richardson are a combined 14-2 in their last four dual meets. Those two losses were Thomas’ overtime defeat to top-ranked Gabe Dean of Cornell and Bethea’s one point thriller to No. 14 Jace Bennett of Cornell.
While all four wrestlers have performed well all year, this has been the first time that they have come together as a group. Cobb and Thomas each battled their share of nagging injuries in the fall and Bethea was forced to sit out for eligibility reasons. But now coach Alex Tirapelle’s Quakers have unleashed the full court press and look ready to take out anything in their sights.
With over a week off until their next bout — a dual against Ivy rival Brown at the Palestra — the Red and Blue will have to focus to maintain their momentum. But that should be no problem for a squad with plenty of vocal leaders that are hungry for more victories, especially considering that many of them have had to miss significant time the last couple of seasons.
Cobb, who many picked to be a cornerstone of the Quakers’ 2013-14 campaign before he sat out to focus on academics, hit full stride at the perfect time. The 149-pounder put a hurting on his opponents en route to bonus point victories in three of his last four matches. However, the highlight of his season, and perhaps the team’s season so far, was his victory over Cornell’s seventh-ranked Chris Villalonga in overtime last weekend in Ithaca.
Along with consistently solid performances by seniors Jeff Canfora (141 pounds) and Brad Wukie (174 pounds), the Red and Blue sure look like they deserve a place back in the national rankings.
Now that Cobb has snuck into the top 10, the Quakers have two wrestlers who can boast such a ranking (No. 5 Thomas is the other).
Penn wrestling is finally starting to grapple like they did at the beginning of the year when the Quakers opened the season with a national ranking. This is no doubt a result of Tirapelle finally possessing a healthy and deep roster.
As the Quakers prepare for their upcoming Ivy slate they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. If they play their cards right, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to win their final five duals of the season.
Ultimately, the Red and Blue will go as far as their stars can take them. A top-three finish at the EIWAs and two All-American wrestlers is surely not out of the question this season for this, finally, cohesive group.
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