Penn wrestling hopes to save its best for last.
This Saturday, the Quakers will compete in their final matches of the regular season on the road against Princeton and No. 25 Drexel. This doubleheader consists of a 12 p.m. competition in New Jersey followed by a return to Philadelphia for a 7 p.m. meeting against a local rival.
Penn is coming off a busy weekend that began with a split against its two New York Ivy League rivals, Columbia and No. 11 Cornell. The Quakers (9-6, 6-4 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) finished the two-day stretch strong with a second-place finish at the Warrior Winter Open, and coach Roger Reina believes that they can continue their good run.
“This team’s done a remarkable job throughout the course of the year of finding a way to win matches,” Reina said. “We’ve been building on our experiences throughout the season, and I feel really confident going into these weekends that they’re going to perform really well.”
Standout senior captain Frank Mattiace echoed his coach’s sentiment, noting that the team has overcome a myriad of obstacles this year.
“We’ve had our ups and downs this year. We’ve battled with injuries and things like that – the kind of things you can’t control,” he said. “[We’re] going to be confident in our ability and just stick to our game plan and I think everything will be okay.”
The match against Princeton (3-8, 3-3) will be especially important for the Quakers. While the Tigers struggled early in the season, they have come on strong recently, winning three of their last five matches. Additionally, the Red and Blue have lost to Princeton in two consecutive years, making the storied matchup this weekend all the more vital.
“Penn-Princeton in anything is a terrific rivalry, and in our sport no different,” Reina said. “It has its own kind of special flavor.”
Drexel (11-4, 5-4) will be another tough competitor for the Quakers. The Dragons have had a strong season, rising into the national rankings this week for the first time all year. They will also be more rested than Penn going into the match, as it will be their first and only competition of the weekend.
After Saturday’s matches, the Quakers will prepare for the EIWA Championships, which serve as both the conference championship and the qualifier for the NCAA tournament. Even though Mattiace won at the EIWA tournament and qualified for the NCAAs last year, he is not directing his focus to those events just yet.
“We’re thinking more team oriented. I think after this weekend that will shift a little bit more towards an individual thing, but outside of that I think for the most part our mindset is about the same,” Mattiace said.
His coach agreed, noting that the team is focused most on its progression and the matches directly ahead.
“The only changes are to continue to build on our experiences. We want to keep improving, we want to keep moving forward,” Reina said.
And move forward is what the Quakers hope to do – through this weekend, into the postseason, and beyond.
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