What does Penn wrestling have in common with a Batman villain?
The Red and Blue wrestling squad has been known to celebrate good performances by telling a variety of riddles and logic puzzles on the way home from matches — and they’re hoping that the bus ride back from Penn State this upcoming weekend will once again be a time to confound each other off the mat.
Before they do that, though, the Quakers will have to find success at this weekend’s Nittany Lion Open, hosted by Penn State. Penn will look to continue the momentum it built from its strong performances at last weekend’s Keystone Classic.
The meet lineup not only includes Penn State’s formidable squad, but a number of individual, unaffiliated school entries that could pose an even greater challenge.
“This tournament in the past has been really tough,” senior 157-pounder Brooks Martino said. “You get a lot of kids who are red-shirting, and Penn State is a top-five team in the nation. There’s always a lot of tough kids from Pennsylvania and [New] Jersey that go to these tournaments.”
Not only is the field competitive, but the sheer number of entries is enough to present a unique challenge to the Red and Blue. If there are more than 32 entries in a weight class — which is anticipated, especially in the middle weight classes — the contest will be single elimination until the round of 32. This has the potential to shift how competitors approach a match.
“You can’t really afford a loss until you’ve won at least two — that presents a big challenge. You can’t start slow, and you have to be ready to go out hard as soon as the whistle blows,” Martino said.
“You’ll have to come out aggressive, score immediately and keep the lead the whole match. If something goes wrong, you won’t be able to wrestle all the way back like you can in other tournaments.”
However, the Red and Blue are taking this challenge in stride, building on the previous experience they’ve gained competing and practicing this season.
“It’s always challenging,” coach Alex Tirapelle said. “As a whole, the group’s looked pretty well, and we’ve remained fairly healthy. We’ll start to have guys running into people they’ve already seen, and they’ll start to turn the tide if they’ve lost to them before or win by more points than they may have before.”
The new staffing changes also give Penn wrestling a competitive edge, particularly in the heavyweight class.
“It’s definitely an advantage, especially for me, as [new assistant coach] Mike McMullan was also a heavyweight in his collegiate career,” junior 197-pounder Frank Mattiace said. “They’re younger and bring a different view to the team, and just work really well with the other coaches.”
As a whole, the team is excited to take on — and take down — more challenges and more opponents.
“I think this is going to be a really good opportunity early on in the season,” Mattiace said. “Right now, it’s not about nerves, its about excitement.”
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