A quick glance at the Penn wrestling team's wins and losses so far this season can only lead to one conclusion -- the Quakers can't beat the big-name teams. No. 28 Penn (5-5, 3-1 Ivy League) has been very strong against weaker opponents. Last weekend, the Quakers outscored their guests at the Palestra -- Harvard, Brown and George Mason -- by a combined score of 108-21. But then again, Harvard, Brown, and George Mason aren't exactly the cream of collegiate wrestling's crop. The cream includes teams like Michigan, Indiana and Penn State. All three of these teams are nationally ranked in the top 20, and all three of these teams have beaten Penn this season. Tonight, the Quakers will square off against another wrestling powerhouse, No. 14 Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. Penn coach Roger Reina is looking forward to the second-ever meeting between these two teams. "They are a very solid club, and this [match] will be a great experience for our team," Reina said. The two schools met for the first time during last year's National Duals. The Sun Devils (9-3, 4-0 Pac-10) defeated the Red and Blue, 22-16, in the double-elimination tournament. Only four Penn wrestlers won their bouts against Arizona State last year. Of those four, only senior co-captain Mike Fickell remains on this year's club. Defeating this year's Sun Devils will be a daunting task. Seven of Arizona State's starting 10 wrestlers are ranked in the top 20 nationally by Amateur Wrestling News. The Quakers must win the three weight classes where the Sun Devils are unranked -- 125, 149 and 197 pounds -- to have a chance at pulling out a victory. Freshman Mason Lenhard will represent the Quakers in the lightest weight class. Lenhard -- who is currently atop the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association's 125-pound division -- should not be have too difficult of a task against Arizona State redshirt freshman Chris Knox, who is 0-8 in dual meets so far this year. Penn No. 3 Yoshi Nakamura will be challenged by Sun Devils' sophomore No. 13 Rocky Smart at 157 pounds. The Quakers' senior co-captain will be looking to extend his undefeated overall (18-0) and dual meet (8-0) records. The most interesting bout of the match will be between Penn senior Tim Ortman and Arizona State senior No. 4 Steve Blackford. This bout will be the only rematch from last year's meeting at National Duals. Ortman will be looking to redeem himself after losing to Blackford, 12-2, by major decision. In the 174-pound slot, Penn junior Josh Henson will wrestle Arizona State junior No. 20 Curtis Owen. Henson has looked strong in his first couple of meets back from a shoulder injury that kept him out of action until early January. The 197-pound slot is a must-win for No. 15 Fickell. This weight class is the weakest for the Sun Devils, as they have not had a steady starter here all season. Reina is counting on his grapplers to put forth the same effort that he saw from them in last weekend's triumph over Harvard, Brown and George Mason. "We need to build off of last week's momentum and challenge our new-found confidence against better competition," Reina said. The Sun Devils will certainly be one of the toughest opponents Penn has faced all season. But if the Quakers are starting to peak -- as last weekend's efforts seem to have shown -- they may come back east with an upset victory and a higher spot in the national rankings. Following the Arizona State match, Penn will come back home to take on Princeton on February 14.Comments powered by Disqus
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