Even as Philadelphia and its citizens stock food, salt the roads, and seal their windows in advance of this weekend’s blizzard, Penn wrestling is preparing to weather a much different storm.
On Sunday, the Palestra will play host to Binghamton, a fellow member Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, as Penn looks to clinch its third consecutive dual meet victory. Penn (2-1) takes on the Bearcats (6-4) in their first meeting since the Quakers traveled to Binghamton’s campus for the Binghamton Open on Nov. 8. In that tournament, Penn flashed its star power, as senior CJ Cobb submitted a sterling performance to win the 149-pound championship.
Although this week’s competition is on a smaller scale, it could be an occasion of incredible importance for senior Lorenzo Thomas. He sits on the cusp of a milestone that would cement his place in the pantheon of Penn’s greatest wrestlers. With a victory on Sunday, Thomas would notch his 100th victory and become just the 11th athlete in the history of the Quakers’ 111-year-old program to hit triple digits.
Coach Alex Tirapelle lauded Thomas for his accomplishments.
“[100 matches] is quite a milestone, you know,” he said. “Not only do you have to be incredibly talented and incredibly successful, you have to be incredibly durable. And he has been.”
Tirapelle was, however, quick to cite Thomas’ humility in the face of such praise.
“Just knowing Lorenzo, is he thinking about it or worrying about it? Probably not that much.”
Thomas is certainly not allowing the prospect of entering the history books to lessen his focus.
“I’m just continuing to work on stuff in the room. Nothing special, just trying to improve on the past couple of matches and tournaments,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any added pressure.”
Apart from any discussions of milestones and careers, Sunday’s matchup with Binghamton carries implications for the immediate success of the Quakers. After initial success against EIWA opponents like Sacred Heart and Army, Penn look to the match with Binghamton as way to maintain their good form before heading into their first Ivy contest against Princeton.
The dual meet will feature 10 matches, ranging from 125 to 285 pounds. One advantage for the Red and Blue may come in the fact that Binghamton possesses a distinct lack of experience, as only two out of the Bearcats’ ten projected starters are upperclassmen. Binghamton senior Jack McKeever could, however, present a challenge to senior Casey Kent, ranked no.13 in the nation by the NCAA Coaches panel. McKeever qualified for last year’s NCAA Championships after placing sixth at the EIWA Championships.
Binghamton’s visit also demonstrates that Philadelphia is rightfully known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” Like Penn, Binghamton boasts a set of siblings on their team. Quakers May and Ray Bethea will take on Vincent and Anthony Deprez, one week after they both went 2-0 against Sacred Heart and Army. May, in particular, looks to ride a wave of momentum, as, along with Kent, he was recognized by the NCAA Coaches Panel as No. 25 in the nation for his weight class.
This weekend, Penn’s wrestlers will look to live up to expectations and enter the annals of history. Although winter has arrived, the Quakers are trying not to feel the cold.
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