While it was not a flawless regular season for Penn wrestling in all facets, two wins on Saturday allowed the Quakers’ home faithful to end 2014-15 having seen nothing but wins the entire year.
The Red and Blue defeated both Princeton and Drexel at the Palestra on Saturday to complete its home dual meet season with a perfect 6-0 record. The meets were the final duals for seniors Canaan Bethea, Geoffrey Bostany, Jeff Canfora, Anthony DiLonardo, Andrew Lenzi and Brad Wukie, all of whom were honored before taking the mat against the Tigers.
“We have a lot of people in that class that really care about the program,” senior 149-pounder C.J. Cobb said.
Wukie and Bethea could have graduated before the season but the duo took last semester off in order to retain their final year of eligibility before returning this winter. Bostany, whose wrestling career was ended before last season by a concussion, stayed involved with the team as a student assistant coach with Penn (9-4).
The Red and Blue’s seniors notched key victories in the two matches, including Wukie’s wins over Princeton junior Judd Ziegler in sudden victory and Drexel freshman Stephen Loiseau in the 174-pound class.
The Quakers’ other two senior wrestlers who competed on the day — 141-pounder Canfora and 157-pounder Bethea — both lost close matches against Princeton (9-9) but emerged victorious in their bouts against Drexel.
Bethea’s loss to Princeton junior Abe Ayala — ranked 12th in the weight class — was especially heartbreaking as it was his second 6-5 loss to the Tiger this season. However, Bethea dominated Drexel redshirt freshman Brandon Litten, 14-4, in his final home match with the program.
On top of extending its perfect mark at home this year, Penn’s victory against Princeton extended another streak. Saturday’s win was the Quakers’ 24th consecutive victory against the Tigers, a run that dates back to 1992.
“Princeton’s a tough team,” Cobb said. “That was a tough match. It feels good to have bragging rights over them.”
Cobb was actually recruited by Princeton out of high school and considered attending there before ultimately choosing Penn.
“It just shows that I made the right decision,” Cobb said while laughing.
The Quakers only led the Tigers by four when freshman heavyweight Patrik Garren took the mat against sophomore Ray O’Donnell. However, buoyed by a five-point first period, Garren took the match, 7-4, to seal Penn’s 19-12 victory.
“You really just have to get fired up for a match like that,” Garren said of his win. “Just go out and perform better than you usually do. Make sure we get the win over Princeton.”
After sophomore Jeremy Schwartz’s loss in the 125-pound category to Drexel redshirt freshman Zack Fuentes, sophomore Caleb Richardson, ranked No. 18 in the 133-pound class, was unable to overcome Drexel redshirt sophomore Kevin Devoy.
Devoy, who is ranked No. 15 in the category, held on for a 7-3 win to stake Drexel out to a 6-0 lead.
However, the Quakers pulled together and only lost two more matches for the rest of the afternoon, winning by six, 21-15, after facing a six-point deficit early in the dual.
By defeating the Dragons (8-14), the Quakers were able to hoist the Abner’s Cheesesteak Trophy, annually awarded to the winner of the Penn-Drexel meet, as the two are Philadelphia’s only two Division I wrestling programs.
“It’s a lot of fun wrestling Drexel,” Garren said. “Obviously, there’s the Cheesesteak Trophy, which is always fun to have. The cheesesteak is a pretty big deal around here.”
“It’s definitely nice knowing we’re the best wrestling team in Philly,” he concluded.
And with the performances that Penn has put up in Philadelphia this year, the Quakers have shown that to its home crowds this entire season.
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