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Penn wrestling beats Hofstra at the Palestra on Saturday No. 17 Jonny Bonilla-Bowman (HU) def. Gabriel Burak (Penn) Credit: Katie Rubin

Life isn’t about to get any easier for the Penn wrestling squad.

The Quakers are scheduled to compete in four straight dual matches Saturday, as they venture to Troy, N.Y., to take part in the Northeast Duals. There they will face Appalachian State, Sacred Heart and most importantly Big Ten powerhouse Michigan.

“Michigan’s got a couple kids that are right there as far as All-American status,” Penn coach Rob Eiter said. “They’re nationally ranked right now and I think we match up real well with them.”

The task of grappling with the big boys from the Midwest will be especially daunting, as the Quakers continue to compete shorthanded after losing arguably their top three wrestlers — Rollie Peterkin (125), Cesar Grajales (149) and Matt Dragon (157) — to suspension just before the Keystone Classic Sunday.

Although these losses may be problematic down the road, it doesn’t seem as though Eiter is having any problems replacing the wrestlers out on the mat for now, as four of his Quakers brought home the top spot at the Keystone Classic.

“We’ve already had kids step up,” Eiter said. “Barring Scott Giffin, who’s one of our captains as well, we had three other kids with very little, if any, varsity experience win titles [last week].”

It seems the larger task will be finding a new team identity, as all three suspended players — each of whom may not return this season — are seniors, and two of them were captains.

The remaining Quakers seem to be just fine with the squad they’ve got, however, and still have the experience they need in older wrestlers like starting senior heavyweight Tyler Blakely.

“I think the team dynamic has changed a little bit,” Blakely said, “but everyone works hard, and there’s going to be certain people who step up and fill that leadership role.”

The group certainly has the personnel to pick up the slack, and Eiter made it very clear that though he may have lost some experienced grapplers, his team is by no means short on leadership.

Along with the vocal team captain Giffin, the Quakers also boast a pair of quiet but talented siblings in the Burak brothers, who are known not only for their ability — they represented two of the four first place finishes at the Keystone Classic — but also for determination and work ethic.

“Gabe Burak and Micah Burak lead by example,” Eiter said. “They’re always the first ones in the room and they work hard. Obviously it’s been paying off for them.”

If Penn wishes to emerge victorious this weekend, it will have to do a better job of finishing off opponents once they’ve worked themselves into an advantageous position.

“We need to concentrate on the top position,” Eiter said. “We’re riding quite a bit, now we need to start taking advantage of that and putting kids on their back.”

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