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Junior Lior Zamir, shown here against Nebraska's Levi Wofford, is one of six Penn wrestlers who will take the mat at the NCAA Championships.

Matt Valenti is hoping for history to repeat itself.

The accomplished senior, a unanimous choice for Ivy League Wrestler of the Year, will attempt to defend his 133-pound crown later today when the Quakers begin Day One of the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Valenti leads a squad of grapplers who are eager to make a lasting impression at the tournament. The Red and Blue are hoping for an improvement on last year's performance, when they finished in 12th place overall.

The Quakers will have to rely on its decorated veteran leadership if it hopes to accomplish its goals. Those headlining the delegation at the tournament with Valenti will include fellow Ivy League first-teamers Matt Dragon (157 pounds) and Zack Shanaman (165), along with second-teamer Matt Eveleth (125), honorable mention Matt Herrington (174), and Lior Zamir (184) .

Coach Zeke Jones is confident that his wrestlers won't be booking early flights home.

"According to most people, experts and coaches, [all six wrestlers] are in the top 17 in their weight-classes," he said. "I think each one of them is capable of getting deep into the tournament - into the third day."

When the Quakers wrestle today, they'll be entering unfamiliar territory. The Palace of Auburn Hills, which seats over 22,000 and is home to the NBA's Detroit Pistons, is sure to provide an electric, high-intensity atmosphere for every match it hosts.

While Jones knows what his team is up against in the formidable Palace, he feels that the Quakers are up for the challenge.

"Certainly you don't wrestle in this kind of environment very often," he said. "I think that this environment is unique, but we have wrestled in front of some pretty good crowds this year . They're very seasoned in competing against good competition in hostile environments."

While the environment might turn hostile for his wrestlers, Jones expects to feel right at home. The coach grew up a 20-minute drive from the Palace in Ann Arbor, Mich. and expects a cheering section of his own.

"It will be exciting for me to come back home," he said. "All my family is going to be here -- so I like that."

And Jones believes for a successful weekend, the team must rely on the strategy that has characterized its season - one that was filled with ups and downs.

"We really just have to focus on what we do well and things tend to work themselves out," he said.

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