The Quakers are sending a total of seven wrestlers to the NCAAs in St. Louis. The Penn wrestling team will be experiencing a little March Madness of its own next week. The No. 15 Quakers are sending seven wrestlers to the 2000 NCAA Championships. The tournament starts Thursday and runs through next Saturday at the Kiel Center in St. Louis. Even though they came up short in their quest for a fifth consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association team title, the Red and Blue still managed to qualify wrestlers in seven of the 10 weight classes -- all except the 125, 165 and 185-pound levels. While Penn looks to improve upon last year's 11th-place finish at the NCAAs, senior tri-captains Brett Matter (157) and Bandele Adeniyi-Bada (heavyweight) and junior tri-captain Rick Springman (174) enter the tournament with legitimate shots at winning individual titles. One of the keys for Penn in St. Louis will be Matter, who has lost only once this year and is currently ranked second in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News. Matter was the shining star for the Quakers at the EIWA tournament. With his individual title at 157, Matter became the EIWA's first four-time champion in 17 years, earning both the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award and the Fletcher Award, given to the wrestler with the most career EIWA points. For Matter, this will be a chance to improve upon a fifth-place showing at last year's NCAAs. He tore through his first three opponents before losing to top seed and eventual national champion T. J. Williams of Iowa. Matter then lost to the second seed, Oklahoma State's Reggie Wright, but was able to rebound for a fifth-place finish. "Personally, I want to win," Matter said. "I think that [a title] is within my reach." Adeniyi-Bada, currently ranked fifth in the nation, emerged victorious from a strong heavyweight class at the EIWAs, closing out the tournament with a 3-2 win over Harvard's Dawid Rechul. In last year's NCAAs, Adeniyi-Bada overcame a hip injury early on to finish in seventh place overall. In the NWCA All-Star Classic earlier this season, Adeniyi-Bada lost a close 5-4 decision to national No. 1 Brock Lesnar of Minnesota, who will be the favorite in the heavyweight division in St. Louis. Springman came away from Easterns with an individual title as well as the Sheridan Award for most falls in the least amount of time, which he sealed with a third period fall in the finals over fifth-ranked Ed Mosley. Springman will look to improve upon last year's performance, when he was knocked out of the competition just one round short of placing among the top eight finishers. In addition to the three nationally ranked captains, the Quakers will be represented by senior Jason Nagle (133), freshman Jody Giuricich (141), senior Jon Gough (149) and No. 14 junior Mike Fickell (197). Nagle is the only one of this group who will be making a return to this year's tournament. While these wrestlers may not be the odds-on favorites to win, they can earn All-American status by placing in the top eight of their respective weight classes. "If we all wrestle to our potential and peak at the right time, the sky's the limit," Matter said. On the strength of three All-American performances -- a Penn record -- by Matter, Andrei Rodzianko (197) and Adeniyi-Bada, the Quakers finished 11th in the nation last year, just one point behind 10th-place Boise State. Not only was this a marked improvement over the 27th-place showing the previous year, but it also was Penn's best result in 57 years. "As a team, we have a lot of potential," Matter said. "I don't see why a top 10 [team finish] is out of our reach."Comments powered by Disqus
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