Bring on the Ancient Eight.
Penn wrestling travels this weekend to face fellow Ivy League foes Brown and Harvard.
The Red and Blue (7-4, 3-1 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) are coming off of a strong weekend where they nearly swept three dual meets.
The Quakers are hoping to keep that momentum going against the Bears (2-5, 2-2) and the Crimson (3-2, 1-2) in one of the more wild scheduling twists Penn Athletics has seen all year.
On Saturday, Penn will take on both its foes at their respective home arenas — the Quakers start at Brown at noon, drive from Providence to Cambridge upon that completion of that contest, then have to warm up again and take on the Crimson at their place at 6 p.m.
“It’s always exciting to go into Ivy League competition,” coach Roger Reina said. “It adds an extra element of rivalry and intensity.”
Though there is parity in the Ivy League — only Cornell has been truly dominant — Penn has the potential to create some separation from the rest of the league the weekend.
This parity is evident in the results of comparable matchups. Penn lost to Stanford earlier this season by a point, Harvard beat Stanford in a tiebreaker, Penn defeated Bucknell, while Bucknell beat Harvard, but Brown beat Bucknell.
With such evenly matched teams, there are a few key matchups that will be critical for the Red and Blue if they hope to take home a pair wins.
At 149 pounds, senior captain Joe Oliva will be squaring off against Harvard's Hunter Ladnier. Oliva has been on a tear lately, winning all three of his bouts last weekend and a match by fall in Penn's comeback against Army the previous weekend. Ladnier has 10 wins on the season, and nearly notched another in last weekend’s match against No. 11 Cornell.
At 165, May Bethea will take on Jon Viruet of Brown. Similar to Oliva, Bethea has been strong for the Red and Blue of late — he scored 45 points over three matches, all individual wins, last weekend.
For the heavyweights, Tyler Hall once again replaces an injured Patrik Garren. Hall has been a solid replacement for Garren, going 3-1 over the last four meets. The matchup brings the potential for revenge for Hall. He has the chance to avenge a defeat at the hands of the Brown heavyweight earlier in the season.
In addition to the key matchups, the Red and Blue will generally look to be on the offensive this weekend.
“We’re trying to wrestle at a higher pace,” Reina explained. “We want to generate more offense, we want to look for bonus point wins, major decisions, tech falls and falls.
“In all of these meets we’ve had previously, the margins can be very slim. So every one of those points counts.”
Although the Quakers expect a competitive match, they are locked in.
“We’re focused on going into this competition to go out and build on our best performances that we’ve had so far this year and take them up to the next level,” Reina said.
“We’re excited, we’re ready to go.”
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