The bus ride after an upsetting loss can be painful, but luckily for Penn, the Quakers had a second meet Saturday to make the trip more worthwhile.
In a doubleheader of sorts, the Red and Blue lost to a ranked Pittsburgh squad and then hopped on the bus to nearby Wexford, Pa., to enact some revenge against Clarion.
Penn’s 28-6 defeat against No. 23 Pittsburgh (13-1-1) was far closer than the scorecard would indicate. The Quakers (5-4) lost four matches by two points or less, putting the team in a large hole early.
The highlights of the meet were Penn’s only two victories, coming from Gabriel Burak — who took down Pitt’s Adam Counterman in a fourth overtime — and junior captain Scott Giffin.
Senior Matt Dragon, who has been battling constant shoulder problems since the Jan. 9 meet against Binghamton, made his return to the mat Saturday, but was forced to withdraw after he re-tweaked his shoulder. Dragon had a 4-3 lead at the time.
The injury, coupled with a few narrow defeats to Pitt, gave the ensuing bus ride to Clarion (3-5) an extremely somber tone.
“It was quiet,” Eiter said. “They realized that they let a good opportunity slip away from them.”
However, at a time when the Quakers could have crumbled, the squad physically and mentally refueled and came out firing against a talented Clarion team.
“People were upset with our performance and it kind of lit a fire under them and got them going,” Giffin said.
Penn sophomore Mark Rappo kicked off the night by defeating Joe Waltko, who was incidentally being honored at the meet. The schools were competing at North Allegheny High School, where Waltko had become a state champ the year before. Rappo — a prior Pennsylvania state champ himself — made quick work of his in-state rival with a 9-4 victory.
Bryan Ortenzio and Zach Kemmerer then won 10-4 and 8-6 respectively, staking the Quakers to a 9-0 lead.
After losing the next two bouts (one of which came via forfeit due to Dragon’s injury), Clarion held a 12-9 advantage, their first lead of the day. The Quakers responded quickly though, as No. 20 Burak won his second match of the day, taking down Clarion’s Nick Milano with a fall at the 4:52 mark.
“[Gabe is] obviously having a fantastic year for us,” Eiter said. “He’s been great through the whole season.”
Penn then alternated wins for the next four matches, picking up decisions from Giffin and Micah Burak. They secured just enough points to escape the dual with a 24-18 victory.
“We were a little nervous at the beginning of the day and we worked the nerves out a little bit in that first match,” Giffin said. “But we got a more fluent and stayed looser as the day went on.”
The team will need to build off the momentum of the Clarion match if it wishes to make a late season push. After Hofstra next week, the Red and Blue will begin a very tough Ivy League stretch to position themselves for postseason play.
To avoid more gloomy bus rides in the future, Penn will be sure to come out firing.Comments powered by Disqus
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