Though the stat sheet might suggest that the Virginia wrestling team bested the Quakers' squad at last month’s Southern Scuffle, the less heralded Penn team may have actually left with the advantage.
While the No. 24 Cavaliers (10-3) are the likely favorite Sunday in their dual against unranked Penn, the Quakers (4-2) will enter the meet with the experience of having taken on several Cavaliers at the Scuffle.
That, along with senior Cesar Grajales’ return from a lingering injury that kept him out of last week’s matches, could put the Red and Blue in position for an upset.
Addtionally, Penn coach Rob Eiter thinks the teams are much more alike than the rankings indicate.
“Rankings are strange,” Eiter said. “Sometimes it’s how that person feels when they wake up in the morning. We match up with Virginia about as evenly as you possibly can, and there’s probably two or three swing matches [that will determine the outcome].”
The most notable toss up of the afternoon will be at the 157-pound weightclass. Penn senior Matt Dragon, ranked fifteenth, will square off against No. 17 Danny Gonsor. The two competed against each other at the Scuffle, however Dragon was forced to default after dislocating his shoulder.
“I’ve just got to stay out of certain positions because he’s pretty tough on top,” Dragon said of his impending opponent, “but it’s one of those toss up matches.”
Beyond Gonsor, the Cavaliers remain a stacked group. At the 174-pound weight class, No. 4 Chris Henrich (who attended nearby Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa.) will provide a tough challenge for Scott Giffin, whom Eiter touted as one of Penn’s better wrestlers.
“They’re also ranked at [the 197-pound weightclass], and we’ve been floating in and out of the rankings there, so we’re looking for a real nice match from Micah [Burak],” Eiter said.
After beginning the season ranked No. 24, the Quakers have fallen out of the top 25 due to tough losses at Michigan and Maryland. However, a win Sunday could do wonders for a team that is already riding a two-game win streak.
“Really with college wrestling, unless you’re in the top five in the rankings, there’s a lot of parity, especially with all the injuries,” Eiter said. “We’ve been in the top 25, we fell out, and a win will definitely get us back in.”
Eiter also mentioned that the team is getting stronger as the season progresses. He explained that not only are the Quakers gaining the experience of a tough Division I schedule, but that they have yet to put their full lineup out on the mat.
With the team traveling to take on No. 18 Pittsburgh the following week, the Red and Blue will prepare for Ivy League duals with two weeks of elite competition.
“There’s always stuff to work on,” Dragon said. “They will be a good test this weekend, and hopefully everyone will stay healthy, wrestle tough and learn a couple things.”
In the grand scheme of things, there’s little more that Penn could ask for out of their final non-conference bouts than health and experience.
That and a Top 25 ranking.Comments powered by Disqus
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