Forget about the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas: Penn’s wrestling team has its eyes set on the Penn State Open this weekend.
In planning the schedule before the start of the season, coach Rob Eiter and his staff decided to forego the Las Vegas Invitational — one of the bigger tournaments of the year and one that the Quakers have attended in the past — and instead opted to head to State College, Pa.
However, there should be still be some bright lights on display in Penn State’s Rec Hall as some of the best wrestlers from around the country will be competing in the open tournament, including grapplers from Missouri and Virginia, ranked No. 17 and No. 18 in the nation, respectively.
The No. 13 Nittany Lions should also defend their home mat pretty well, as they will send out their entire squad, which boasts five ranked wrestlers — including senior Cyler Sanderson, No. 4 in the 157-pound weightclass.
For many of the Penn wrestlers, the path to a weightclass title will most likely run through some of these wrestlers. And despite the fact that Penn has no ranked wrestlers of its own, the Quakers should not be overlooked.
Junior Gabe Burak, who has yet to drop a match this season, welcomes the opportunity and looks forward to lining up against some of the best in his 165-pound weightclass, including Penn State’s own No. 9 Dan Vallimont.
“It’s definitely gonna be the toughest [tourney] so far,” Burak said. “There’ll be just a lot of guys there, big brackets, and a number of tough individuals.”
Nevertheless, Eiter has confidence in his team and is looking for big performances from all his wrestlers, including junior Scott Giffin and Burak’s freshman brother Micah. Those two plus Gabe have headlined the season thus far, posting a combined record of 28-2.
The Quakers will also benefit from the presence of Mark Rappo (125) who returned to action last week in the Northeast Duals, sweeping his matches 3-0.
Giffin, who claimed the 174-pound weightclass title in the Keystone Classic and also went 3-0 in his matches during the Northeast Duals last weekend, attributed his recent success to a newfound level of confidence, and hopes he can continue to improve.
“I know I’m in better shape this year, coming in,” Giffin said. “So I gained a lot of confidence just being here, working out every day and … tuning up on the finer things.”
Giffin will certainly need to be on top of his game, as he could potentially face Virginia’s fourth-ranked Chris Henrich and Maryland’s No. 6 Mike Letts.
And while the competition may be as stiff as it has been all year, Eiter is looking forward to seeing how his team handles the adversity.
“As far as individual competition,” he said, “it’s going to be tough, but really it’s a good tournament because it’s a grind.”Comments powered by Disqus
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