This weekend, Penn wrestling got just what it needed. In a pair of duals at Brown and Harvard on Feb. 6, the Quakers swept the competition. After taking down the Bears, 25-9, in Providence, Ri., Penn wrestling dealt the Crimson a 26-9 beatdown in Cambridge, Ma.
The results righted the ship for a Red and Blue squad that had been handed a pair of tough defeats last week. The Quakers now turn their attention to No. 18 Cornell, who sits atop the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association standings.
Five wrestlers for the Quakers took both of their matches against Brown and Harvard, but perhaps no individual performance was more critical than that of senior Casey Kent, the No. 15 174-pounder in the country.
Against the Bears, Penn jumped out to an early lead before seeing it shrink to just 15-9 before Kent stepped onto the mat.
A 10-2 major decision later and the Red and Blue were comfortably ahead as senior 184-pounder Lorenzo Thomas put the meet away with a fall.
Of added help to Penn coach Alex Tirapelle’s squad was the success at 197 and 285 pounds. Up until now, the Quakers have been short-handed in the upper weight classes, as junior 197-pounder Frank Mattiace has been battling injury.
But Mattiace was back in the lineup against Brown in the matinee matchup, securing a 7-6 victory to open the meet before Joe Heyob seamlessly stepped into Mattiace’s place with an 8-4 decision against Harvard.
In keeping with the success at the higher end of the scale, Patrik Garren rebounded from a series of tough losses to take both matches on Saturday, helping seal the deal for the Red and Blue.
Their work done in Rhode Island, the Quakers loaded up on the bus for the two-hour journey to eastern Massachusetts, where the Crimson awaited its Ivy League rival.
The day’s second dual featured the same result with even less drama, as the Red and Blue dominated from start to finish in the day’s second contest.
And once again it was Kent leading the way, securing a technical fall to bring his record in dual meets to 7-1 on the season. The 174-pounder’s success since returning from injury last season has been a long time in the making but was entirely unsurprising to his coach.
“I feel like Casey hasn’t missed a beat,” Tirapelle said. “He’s come right back in his stride, he is improved every time out. He continues to get better, he’s wrestling well at the right time, and I expect big things from him at the end of the year.”
“Over the summer, I was practicing a lot since I didn’t really wrestle at all last year,” Kent said. “I wrestled a lot over the summer to get back into it, and that helped a lot. It feels good to come back and be doing good so far, and hopefully I can keep it going.”
For the Red and Blue, it’s now time to focus on the Big Red, who will travel to the Palestra on Valentine's Day. Despite their poor track record in the recent past against the nine-time defending EIWA champions, the Quakers are going into next weekend’s match with confidence.
“Everyone is in better spirits now. We all want to beat Cornell — that’s our team’s goal. We’re going to be fired up and ready to go for that.”
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