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Freshman Mike Faust (above) has teamed with fellow newcomer Mason Lenhard to post a 32-17 record and add a dynamic punch to the Penn wrestling team. The heavyweight and 125-pounder also have a great relationship off the mat. (Justin Ren/DP File Photo)

In most sports, a difference of six inches and 95 pounds between two men places them in vastly different situations. But not in wrestling. Penn freshmen Mason Lenhard and Mike Faust may not be of a similar build, but the two wrestlers have a lot in common. "They're tremendous wrestlers and have been great examples of leadership and inspiration to their teammates," Penn coach Roger Reina said. Faust has had several of those types of inspirational performances this season. Especially memorable was his upset victory over Brown junior Bronson Lingamfelter in the 2000 Keystone Classic. With just three seconds left in a 30-second overtime tiebreaker, Faust escaped Lingamfelter's clutches to earn the victory, bringing the Palestra crowd to its feet in the process. Faust had a nearly identical performance against Harvard junior Dawid Rechul three months later in another upset victory. Both outcomes pleased Penn's other wrestlers, but that's nothing new for Faust. He has always been a people-pleaser, according to good friend and College freshman Paul Byrne. "He's a great guy, loves to have fun, jokes around, and is always up for having a good time," Byrne said. "He is also always looking out for his friends." Faust, whose ability now earns the praise of spectators, wasn't always such a dominant wrestler. "[Wrestling] was really challenging at first," Faust said. "I was 110 at 10 years old, and 130 at 11 years old. I was this little fat kid wrestling 15-year-olds and getting pinned all the time." Faust, who also played football and baseball, was nonetheless intrigued by the sport. "It was still exciting and fun," Faust said. "Some tournaments I'd take third place out of three and I'd still be happy because I got a medal or trophy." Somewhere along the way, however, Faust began showing the signs of a great wrestler in the making. He was 18-1 in eighth grade and finished second in the state in his weight class. "I turned the corner... [then]," Faust said. "I carried that success into high school, and hopefully I'll continue to carry it into college." Faust has been quite successful thus far. He is currently ranked No. 5 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association and is the only freshman in the top 6. Lenhard has also been impressive in just his first year of collegiate wrestling. He is currently the No. 1 seed in the EIWA 125-pound division and is the favorite to win the title this weekend. The native of Parma, Ohio, got to where he is by starting at a young age and working hard, as Faust did. "My dad started me in wrestling in first grade," Lenhard said. "I wrestled with a club, and never really wrestled with a team [until high school]. I wrestled high school with St. Edwards, and then came here." Faust, sitting next to Lenhard, could not help but comment on the brief description of his early wrestling career. "Inspirational. I'm inspired," Faust said sarcastically. And this type of interaction is an important part of what these two young wrestlers bring to the Penn wrestling team. "They add a lot of fun and humor to the team," Reina said. "It's a good chemistry and a good mix." Wharton freshman Tony Fay, who is a close friend of Lenhard's, agrees with Reina. "What everyone will tell you about Mason is that he's a real energetic person," Fay said. "He's real loud, that's what I like about him. He's hilarious with the things he says, and also his facial expressions." They may be all laughs off the mat, but on the mat they become intense and dedicated. "They've been good students of the sport, and they've made good progress throughout the course of the season," Reina said. "They're not wrestling like freshmen now. They're wrestling more like veteran wrestlers." Learning to step in early will be important as they become the leaders of the team in the future and guide the younger wrestlers. And while many Penn wrestlers obtained that guidance from older brothers that wrestled, Lenhard and Faust didn't have that advantage. "I have two sisters, and no brothers, so that didn't really work out," Lenhard said. "I have two sisters, and they're tough, but I can still take them," Faust added jokingly. The two grapplers have plenty in common besides two female siblings. Both Wharton students, Faust and Lenhard recognize the unbeatable combination of wrestling and academics offered at Penn. "This has got to be the No. 1 academic-athletic combination, with wrestling and Wharton, so that's why I chose to come here," Lenhard said. With the future of the Penn wrestling team partially in the hands of Lenhard and Faust, there promises to be a lot of laughing and a lot of money. But most importantly, the dynasty Reina has worked so hard to develop on the mat will be fed by these two for another three years.

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