If at the beginning of the 2015 season you had told the members of Penn wrestling that they would have an All-American wrestler, no one would have blinked. Then-senior Lorenzo Thomas, after all, had already earned the elite title at 184 pounds in 2014, when he finished sixth in the nation.
But it wasn’t Thomas who would climb the podium in March for the Red and Blue. It was 174-pound then-junior Casey Kent.
The Norristown native, who sat out the entire 2014-15 campaign, pinned his way through the blood rounds of the NCAA tournament in New York City to finish as the nation’s fourth-best wrestler in his weight class.
He was nearly joined by Thomas, who lost in the round of 12, ending Penn’s chances of claiming two All-Americans.
But while Kent provided an exclamation point to the end of the Quakers’ season, the rest of the campaign was a mixed bag of successes and shortcomings.
Penn finished the season 2-3 in the Ivy League, a disappointing finish for a team that had become accustomed to being recognized as the second-best team in the Ancient Eight behind national powerhouse Cornell. Sixth place was hardly the result that a roster featuring Thomas, Kent and C.J. Cobb was expected to achieve.
Losses to Princeton, Cornell, Columbia and Drexel came during a tough three-week stretch for the Red and Blue. However, the Quakers successfully rebounded during their postseason tournament slate. Three grapplers advanced to the second day of the NCAA tournament, and a 20th place finish is nothing to sneeze at.
One question that loomed over the squad during those tournaments was the sudden departure of senior C.J. Cobb. Cobb, who fell one win shy of All-American status himself in 2015, had been positioned for a huge year. All season, he proved pundits right and floated around throughout the top ten rankings of the country’s 149-pound weight class. When he didn’t show up for weigh-ins at the EIWA tournament due to a nagging injury, many were shocked. But, the team came together and rallied to put their best foot forward.
The Quakers will aim to avenge their regular season losses from last year and challenge Cornell for the Ivy title. With Kent and junior May Bethea back in the fold, there are reasons to be optimistic that the Red and Blue can fix the bad and repeat the good from the 2015-16 season.
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