It’s home sweet home for the men’s wrestling team this weekend before it has to get used to long bus rides and cheap hotel rooms.
No. 23 Penn will host the Keystone Classic Sunday — its only tournament at the Palestra in 2009 — and then it’s on the road again as the Quakers embark on a four-tournament road stand that will have them traveling up and down the East Coast until Jan. 9.
Penn is hoping to follow up its performance in its initial tournament at the Binghamton University Open last weekend with a strong showing in front of the home crowd.
“It is good to be opening with this tournament at home,” coach Rob Eiter said. “We can showcase our team, our school and get some wins under our belt.”
Last year Penn won the Classic with four individual first-place finishes.
Current seniors Rollie Peterkin, Cesar Grajales and Matt Dragon will try to defend their titles in the 125-, 149- and 157-pound weight classes, respectively.
And after their performance in the season opener, watch out for the Burak brothers to do even more damage this weekend.
At Binghamton, junior Gabriel Burak earned first place in the 165-pound weight class after pinning Scott Winston of Rutgers at 5:55. Younger brother and freshman Micah Burak finished second in the 197-pound weight class, losing only to Cornell sophomore Cam Simaz, 1-0.
Simaz was an All-American at the NCAAs in his freshman season and was Ivy League Rookie of the Year last season.
In Penn’s only other second-place finish last weekend, junior Bryan Ortenzio finished second in the 133-pound final. He lost to another powerful Big Red opponent, 2007-08 Ivy Rookie of the year, Mike Grey, 3-2.
The Quakers will also have the benefit of Scott Giffin this weekend. Giffin, an NCAA qualifier last year as well as a second-team All Ivy selection, was unable to participate in last week’s open due to a skin infection. He will enter this weekend hoping to take charge of the 174-pound pool.
Yet the team will have its work cut out for it if it hope to repeat as overall champions. The field will include 16 individual wrestlers ranked among the top 20 in the InterMat rankings. Penn will also see two other ranked teams — No. 13 Tennessee-Chattanooga and No. 25 American.
Though teams will be travelling to the Palestra from as far away as Arizona, Penn will be focused on competition closest to home.
“Our top rivals are the teams in our conference,” Eiter said of EIWA teams American, Brown and Princeton.
And before they take to the highway, concentrating on the home front may be just what the Quakers need.
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