Penn finished fourth at the Midlands, but lost duals to Michigan and Purdue. EVANSTON, Ill. -- While most of the Penn student body went home over break, awaiting the results of final exams, the Penn wrestling team still had a midterm to take. After two days of competition at the 37th annual Midlands tournament, held at Northwestern on December 29 and 30, the No. 8 Quakers looked to be well above the curve. On the strength of third-place finishes by captains Brett Matter (157 pounds) and Rick Springman (174), and a second-place effort from captain Bandele Adeniyi-Bada (heavyweight), Penn finished fourth -- its highest ever finish at the prestigious Midlands. Penn entered the tournament without the services of two place-winners from last year, Yoshi Nakamura and Justin Bravo. Undaunted, the young Quakers started strong and stood in second place behind No. 1 Iowa after one day of competition. Matter, seeded No. 4, cruised into the semifinals. In the semis, Matter encountered No. 1 ranked T.J. Williams of Iowa. Matter kept up with the defending NCAA champion, taking a 3-2 score late into the third period. But Williams scored a takedown with 0:20 left in the match to seal the victory. A late Matter escape made the final score 5-3. The match was not without controversy, as late in the third period Williams did not break contact with Matter as the wrestlers were hurtling well out of bounds. Much to Penn coach Roger Reina's dismay, no penalties were assessed. After the match, Reina exchanged words with Williams, who went on to lose in the finals to Chris Bono of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club. "I told him he should concentrate on wrestling the match in the circle," Reina said. "Luckily, no one got hurt." Matter wrestled well after the loss, scoring a 10-0 major decision over Michigan State's Gray Maynard to put him into the third-place match against Nebraska's Bryan Snyder, then ranked No. 2 in the country. Matter squeaked out a tight, 3-1 victory to secure third place. "[The win over Snyder is] important for seeding, just having wins over guys like that," Matter said. "It's big. It was hard to gather back up after a loss, but like my coach said, it's a test of character." At 174 pounds, Springman fought through tough early round matches to work his way into the semis. Springman held off No. 17 Nick Mengerink of Pittsburgh, 2-0, and then won a 1-0 decision over No. 2 Josh Koscheck of Edinboro to get into the semifinals. There, Springman suffered a 6-3 loss to No. 1 Otto Olson of Michigan. With Olson up 5-1 in the third, Springman got a reversal, but could not get any closer than 5-3. In the wrestlebacks, Springman came back from a 7-0 deficit to eke out a 13-12 decision over No. 4 Ryan Cunningham of Central Michigan. Then in the third-place bout, Springman turned over Harvard's Ed Mosley for a pin at 3:30. Adeniyi-Bada had a tournament to remember, but a match to forget. The Penn heavyweight, seeded No. 8, wrestled well to get into the semifinals, where Iowa State heavyweight Trent Hynek gave him a medical forfeit win. In the finals, Adeniyi-Bada met Iowa's Wes Hand in front of a raucous crowd, laden with Iowa supporters who made the short trek to Evanston. Adeniyi-Bada quieted the crowd quickly, getting a takedown right off the bat and building a commanding 4-1 lead after one period. Adeniyi-Bada looked like a lock when he amassed a 7-2 lead in the third period. But with what Reina called a "lucky move," Hand turned Adeniyi-Bada for a shocking pin. While the stunning loss temporarily took a little wind out of Penn's sails, the fourth-place finish broke both Penn and EIWA records for Midlands results. After the Midlands, the new year brought a new No. 8 ranking and two more dual matches for the Quakers. But Penn could not parlay tournament success into individual success, as it dropped close meets to No. 24 Purdue, 18-16, and No. 9 Michigan, 18-17. At Purdue, an upset loss by Adeniyi-Bada started a string of four losses that put Penn in an early hole. A major decision win by Matter and a Springman pin brought the Quakers back, giving Penn a 17-15 edge with one match to go. But Purdue 184-pounder Jared Williams ended the meet with an 8-2 decision over Craig Melcher, winning the meet for the Boilermakers. At Michigan, Penn squandered opportunities as both Jonathan Gough and Tim Ortman lost matches in which they had leads. Matter scored a major decision over Tony Holifield, tying the Penn record for most victories at 110, but the Quakers fell behind 18-14 with only 197-pounder Mike Fickell left to wrestle. Knowing anything over a major decision would win the meet for Penn, Fickell pressed early and built a 7-1 lead, almost landing a pin, but Michigan's Joe DeGain fought back to close the gap. The match ended 15-10 Fickell, not enough to force a tie.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.