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Quakers senior Joe Henson and Penn will face tough opponents this winter. Andrew Margolies/SP File Photo

If Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina is trying to improve on last season's 6-7 dual-meet record, he's certainly not taking the easy route.

Instead, the Quakers will grapple with what is arguably the toughest schedule in the program's history this winter.

Reina, who is coming off just his second losing campaign in 15 seasons at the head of the Penn wrestling program, is thrilled about competing against some of the top teams in the country in 2001-2002.

"We're very excited about the schedule," Reina said. "I think it's going to be a great test and will generate a lot of fan enthusiasm with the surrounding community."

One of the key highlights will be a dual meet with Iowa, the runner-up at the 2001 NCAA Championships last March and a perennial wrestling powerhouse. The Quakers will host the Hawkeyes at the Palestra on November 30.

"We have met them before, but they've never been to Philadelphia," Reina said. "We're very excited about the opportunity to host them."

The two teams last met in Hawkeye-Carver Arena in 1998 in the first round of the National Dual Meet Championships, when Iowa hosted the event and easily downed Penn, 30-3.

Both teams will again be in attendance at the 2002 National Duals, as Penn returns after a one-year hiatus from the event. The two-day competition will be held at Ohio State on January 19-20.

Also appearing at this season's National Duals is Iowa State, the sixth-place finisher at the 2001 NCAAs. And while the Quakers may not draw the Cyclones at the National Duals, the two teams will meet at the annual Keystone Classic hosted by Penn at the Palestra on November 18-19.

Iowa State will be bringing their top wrestler to Philadelphia in Cael Sanderson. The 184-pound senior is arguably the best collegiate wrestler of all time, winning three straight NCAA titles and three straight Outstanding Wrestler Awards in three years of collegiate wrestling. Sanderson has a collegiate career record of 119-0.

"He's also going to represent the U.S. in the World Championships in September in Madison Square Garden," Reina added. "To be an undergrad in the Worlds, he's really a phenomenon. Having him come to the Palestra is great along with the Iowa State squad."

Rounding out the field of eight teams at the event are American, Appalachian State, Brown, Duke, Rider and Wagner.

The weekend before the Keystone, the Quakers will travel west for the Wyoming Invitational. Penn is going as a return date, as the Cowboys came to Philadelphia for the Keystone a few years back.

Also new to this year's schedule is a dual meet with Central Michigan, a team very comparable with Penn in terms of ability.

"I think that gives us some good non-conference competition late in the season which is something we felt we needed and Central Michigan felt they needed," Reina said. "So we're helping each other out with that scheduling."

The rest of the schedule resembles last year, with trips to the Penn State Open, the Midlands Open, Ivy dual meets and a final dual meet with Lehigh before the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships, hosted this year by the Engineers.

The road ahead for the Quakers won't be easy, but then again, Reina didn't coach his teams to three straight top 20 finishes at the NCAAs by padding the schedule.

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