Don’t let the man on the oatmeal box fool you — Quakers make good wrestlers.
The Penn wrestling team plans to prove that Sunday when it begins its season at the Binghamton Open where over 300 wrestlers will represent more than 20 schools.
The No. 24 Quakers are doing everything they can to prepare. They know this weekend is a chance to gain much needed experience for a team that graduated six seniors last season.
“We want to start out strong,” coach Rob Eiter said. “For us, it’s about getting on the mat, competing hard and pushing ourselves a little bit past what we’re used to.”
Sure, winning every match would be ideal, but the coaching staff is more focused on providing the wrestlers with as much exposure as possible.
Of the 25 wrestlers on the roster, 11 are underclassmen. Providing these wrestlers with as much match-time as possible will ensure the success of the program over the next few years. And this weekend, Binghamton is the first step in that direction for much of the team.
“It’s a matter of the experience of wrestling, the experience of having an official there,” Eiter said. “It’s a lot different than being in the [practice] room.”
But for upperclassmen Rollie Peterkin, Cesar Grajales and Matt Dragon, this match begins their journeys toward the goal of All-American honors this year. These seniors are ranked in the Intermat top 20 in their respective weightclasses.
The team has a long season to look forward to with plenty of competition. Ivy League foe No. 22 Harvard is ranked above Penn (12-7, 4-1 Ivy last season) in the Intermat 25. This being the first match of the season, the most important thing to Eiter — aside from winning — is staying healthy.
“A good weekend is a healthy weekend,” Eiter said. “We don’t want to come out with any injuries. Especially at the beginning of the year.”
This season, the Quakers began focusing on an aspect of wrestling technique often missed — in the split second after a pin both participants tend to relax, and the coaching staff has been training the team to exploit that fraction of a second.
“We’re stressing this year what we call ‘wrestling through’ everything,” Eiter said. “Don’t relax for a second because that’s the opportunity when the other person has the opportunity to capitalize on you. If in fact we do get scored on, fight back and get those points back. ”
With hours of practice behind them, Penn’s gameplan is to come out aggressively, scoring as many points as possible.
“We want to be the aggressor in every match,” Eiter said. “We’re not going to win every point, we just want to make sure we score more points.”
For Penn, the Binghamton Open is a momentum builder going into next weekend. Penn will host the annual Keystone Classic, an eight to 10 team invitational tournament at the Palestra next Sunday.
So with dual meets still a few weeks away, these Quakers want to prove that they’re an aggressive team.
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