As three Penn wrestling seniors’ careers ended this weekend, two showed great promise for the future.
Penn’s team of five NCAA qualifiers came away disappointed in their overall performance but is celebrating junior Micah Burak, who finished seventh to earn All-American honors at the NCAA Wrestling Championships this weekend in St. Louis.
“We were hoping for more,” coach Rob Eiter said. “As a coach you always go in hoping for everyone to become All-Americans or national champs, but as a whole I’m just proud of the way they competed.”
Burak’s seventh-place finish earned him the All-American nod, which was Penn’s third honor in three years.
Burak’s 5-2 campaign in the championships began with a win over Ohio State’s Andrew Campolattano in the first round Friday morning. He then suffered a second round loss to Missouri’s No. 6 Brent Haynes.
Relegated to the consolation bracket, Burak climbed back into All-American contention by consecutively defeating Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks, Purdue’s A.J. Kissel and finally Nebraska’s James Nakashima in the round of 12.
After losing to Wyoming’s No. 9 Alfonso Hernandez in the consolation quarterfinal, Burak completed in the seventh place match, where he defeated Lehigh’s No. 12 Joe Kennedy, 2-1, in a tiebreaker.
“I was pretty nervous,” Burak admitted. “Overcoming that was hard, but fortunately it worked out. I was thinking of how I wanted to end the season with a win. I knew I could win once it was in second overtime, and I knew I could ride him out for the last seconds.”
While the junior Burak has one more chance to make a run at a national title, seniors Zack Kemmerer, Bryan Ortenzio and Erich Smith knew that when they arrived at the Scottrade Center Thursday, it was the end of the road.
At 141, Kemmerer was looking to improve upon last year’s eighth place All-American finish.
However, after initially defeating North Carolina’s Evan Henderson, Kemmerer fell to No. 6 Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly in the first round. Novachkov finished third in the championships.
Kemmerer battled back in consolation rounds, consecutively beating American University’s No. 11 Matt Mariarcher and Hofstra’s Luke Vaith.
Kemmerer ended his run in the third round of consolations, where he lost to N.C. State’s No. 8 Darius Little. Little finished eighth in the championships.
Kemmerer finished his season fourth in all-time wins at Penn with 117.
Ortenzio, at 133, also lost in the first round to Central Michigan’s Zach Horan.
Ortenzio defeated Maryland’s Geoffrey Alexander in a pigtail match to get into the first consolation round, where he picked up his final win against Nebraska’s Ridge Kiley.
Though his career ended with a loss to Army’s Jordan Thome, he finished in Penn’s 100-win club with 105 wins and an EIWA Championship.
Smith began with a win against Arizona State’s Kevin Radford but was defeated in the second round by Wyoming’s No. 1 Joe LeBlanc, who finished seventh overall.
Smith then entered the second round consolation where he lost to North Carolina’s Thomas Ferguson.
“I’m very proud of those three [seniors],” Eiter said. “It would have been great if we could have had a couple of All-Americans but the character of those kids is much more important and how they represented the team and the university.”
Additionally, true freshman Steve Robertson’s performance bodes well for the future of the Red and Blue.
Though Robertson lost both of his matches, he competed well against two ranked opponents: Michigan’s No. 8 Eric Grajales, a redshirt sophomore, and Edinboro’s No. 9 David Habat, a redshirt freshman.
The Quakers finished No. 32 overall with 15 points.
“We’re proud of all of them” Eiter said.
“We’re ecstatic about Micah, Steven’s a great kid, he competed well and will get better from here, and we’re proud of the seniors and their leadership on the team.”
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