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It was the season of giving, and Penn’s wrestling team received all it could have asked for.

The squad welcomed back senior co-captains Cesar Grajales and Matt Dragon, who were reinstated along with senior Rollie Peterkin from a month-long suspension.

During the suspension, the three wrestlers faced felony assault charges, which have since been dropped following a Dec. 23 hearing.

Peterkin has taken the semester off and thus will not compete, but the return of Grajales and Dragon came just in time for the Southern Scuffle, which began on Dec. 29th in Greensboro, NC. The 31-team event featured a daunting seven of the top-25 teams in the nation, but the Quakers were up to the task, finishing in 11th place at the tournament.

It was Grajales who earned the top finish for the Quakers, going 5-1 and advancing all the way to the 149-pound final before defaulting due to injury — a sprained ligament in his knee — 5:22 into the match.

Meanwhile, Dragon (157) won his first two matches before dropping his third to UNC’s No. 7 Thomas Scotton. Dragon continued in the consolation round, yet lost his first match after defaulting due to a nagging shoulder injury.

Despite the disappointing loss, the senior is confident that his best is yet to come.

“After you get about 10-15 matches under your belt … then you start really peaking,” he said.

Coach Rob Eiter was similarly pleased with the way his co-captains performed.

“Right now we don’t want to be at 100 percent as far as everything hitting full stride,” Eiter said.

Despite their suspensions, Grajales and Dragon remained focused during their time apart. Over the break, both wrestlers kept their diets in check and stuck to their training.

“The main thing was staying in shape — keeping my body ready,” Grajales emphasized.

As far as the other Quakers, notable finishes included juniors Brian Ortenzio, who placed 4th in the 133-pound weightclass and Gabe Burak, who earned a 7th place finish in a difficult 165-pound weightclass.

Almost two weeks later, Penn welcomed Rider and Binghamton to the Palestra and rang in the new year with two victories.

The Quakers began by defeating Rider, 21-15, and later took down Binghamton, 24-13.

Juniors Mark Rappo (125), Ortenzio (133), Gabe Burak (165) and freshman Micah Burak (197) all went 2-0 on the day. Dragon defaulted his first match due to injury — the same recurring shoulder injury that caused him to default at the Scuffle. He returned, and later muscled his way to a 13-8 win over Binghamton’s Justin Lister.

No. 20 Gabe Burak forced his Rider opponent into a technical fall, while his younger brother Micah (197) dominated 6-0 over Rider’s No. 20 Tyler Smith.

Noticeably absent was Grajales, who was held from the matches for protective purposes following his injury at the Scuffle.

With two wins to start off the year, Eiter has much to look forward to down the stretch. Sunday the team will take on Virginia at the Palestra.

In preparation, the coach has wrestling-based new year’s resolutions for his team.

“Eat right,” he said. “Once Christmas break is over, there’s no holidays, no excuses, no more turkey dinners.”It was the season of giving, and Penn’s wrestling team received all it could have asked for.

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