joevelliquette

Senior Joe Velliquette and Penn wrestling will face talented, if familiar opponents this weekend in Rider.

Photo: Griff Fitzsimmons

Penn wrestling has a busy weekend ahead of them, as the Quakers have four matches in three days. 

The Red and Blue welcome a No. 21 ranked Rider team (1-1) that is eager to continue its success after defeating Iowa State this past Sunday.  

For many Quakers, this is not the first meeting with Rider wrestlers, as seniors Joe Velliquette  and May Bethea, at 157 pounds and 165 pounds respectively, wrestled their respective opponents, Rider's B.J. Clagon and Chad Walsh, both NCAA All-Americans, in this year's Keystone Classic.  

"They have gone back and forth in their careers, Walsh got the better of their Keystone match-up and now May has the opportunity to avenge that loss at home," Penn coach Roger Reina said. 

The dual meet format also presents a challenge for the youthful Quakers, as it is their first non-tournament action this season. 

"In the upcoming dual meet, we will need all ten wrestlers to step up and be at their best," Reina said. "That is what we've been emphasizing to the team thus far."  

Reina has seen the immense strides his team has taken thus far through the season and looks to improve upon some of the mistakes he has seen through the first couple of tournaments. 

"On Friday, it's really a matter of executing on the areas that we have been concentrating on that we learned from in those opening two tournaments," Reina emphasized. 

After their match with the No. 21 Broncs, the Quakers head to Hempstead, N.Y. on Sunday to face three unfamiliar opponents in The Citadel, Campbell, and Hofstra. 

Reina is especially interested to watch his team's endurance, saying this weekend's matches will serve as great preparation for the postseason tournaments. 

"We are ultimately preparing for the Eastern Championships and the NCAA Championships – those are events where we will need to compete day after day," Reina said.

The freshmen have played a fairly significant role in the Quakers' success to this point in the season and three freshmen have solidified their spot in the starting lineup for this weekend's matches.  

Freshman Gianni Ghionne, who will wrestle at 133 pounds, returns from injury after missing the Keystone Classic, and will look to build momentum from placing at the opening tournament in Binghamton. 

Coach Reina is definitely excited for his return and upcoming matchup. 

"Gianni has a key matchup on Friday night and it will be a really important test and good challenge for him," Reina said. "He has showed signs of really great promise, but he is going up against a more experienced competitor and he needs to be focused on dominating key positions to win that match." 

Fellow freshmen Dan Planta, at 125 pounds, and Khamari Whimper, at 174 pounds, have also shown signs of brilliance early on. 

The Quakers will look to continue building momentum from the opening tournaments as they embark on this upcoming stretch of dual meets. 

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