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Penn junior Yoshi Nakamura took seventh place in the 157 pound division of last weekend's NCAA Championships. It was his first-ever All-American performance. (Justin Ren/DP File Photo)

The NCAA Championships, the grandest of all college wrestling tournaments, was invaded by five Penn wrestlers -- Yoshi Nakamura, Mike Fickell, Tim Ortman, Mason Lenhard, and Josh Henson -- from March 15-17. During these three days, Penn seniors Yoshi Nakamura and Mike Fickell earned All-American spots, and the Quakers placed 20th in a field of 78 teams. The Red and Blue finished first among its Ivy League competitors and had twice as many All-Americans as all other Ivy teams combined. Penn Coach Roger Reina was generally pleased with the result of his shortened squad in the Penn wrestling team's final performance of the 2000-01 campaign. "All five of our qualifiers went there with the intention of competing successfully, and they all put forward a lot of effort," Reina said. "To come away with the third top-20 finish in three years and two All-Americans was a positive statement." Penn's highest seeded wrestler, Yoshi Nakamura, was surprised in his first match of the tournament by unseeded Griff Powell. The Quakers 157-pounder lost by a score of 3-2. "I got off to a slow start and never really got my engine started, which was a bad thing," Nakamura said. The third-seed battled back however, as he tore through the back-bracket of the double-elimination tournament. In the process, Nakamura avenged his sole regular season loss to Lehigh's Ryan Bernholz, 10-5, and once again defeated Iowa's seventh-seeded Cole Sanderson, 10-5. Nakamura eventually fell victim to fifth-seeded Kirk White, in what Reina termed a "very controversial" 2-1 decision. "It was a close match," Nakamura said. "He hung on and played a close tactical match, got a stalling call on me, and ended up winning." Nakamura left Iowa with not only a seventh place finish but his first-ever selection to the All-American team. Penn's other All-American was 197 pounder Mike Fickell. The 11th-seeded Fickell ripped through the brackets until the semi-finals, and ultimately finished in fifth-place to mark the end of the Penn senior's prolific wrestling career. "I always said I wanted to go out with no regrets, and I went out and wrestled hard and came out with All-American status," Fickell said. "In that sense I feel good about it." Mason Lenhard finished a successful freshmen season that had included an EIWA Championship at 125 pounds with two consecutive losses. The unseeded Lenhard was ousted from the championship bracket by eighth-seeded Ben Vombaur. Tim Ortman, the EIWA's 165-pound titleholder, could not equal his success of two weeks ago. He fell short to Michigan's tenth-seeded Charles Martelli, 6-3, in the first round of the Championship bracket. Ortman, however, faired well in the back-bracket, garnering two wins and upsetting eighth-seeded Carl Fronhofer in the process. Penn's fifth and final wrestler, junior Joe Henson, gained a victory over Duquesne's Erick Glasse before departing from the 149-pound championship bracket. Reflecting upon the season as a whole, Reina remained upbeat as he considered the youth on his team and its steady improvement during the final weeks of the season. "This season was challenging in a lot of ways," he said. "Seven out of 10 starters were new to the program. After the Virginia Duals [on January 12-13] our performance improved week by week."

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