Call it a lucky break or smart scheduling, but Penn’s wrestling team has a great opportunity to gain some momentum heading into its concluding stretch.
Penn will begin its Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association matches tomorrow, traveling up to Providence and Cambridge to take on Ivy foes Brown and Harvard.
If the Quakers (6-4, 0-0 Ivy) can sweep the weekend, they will be riding a four-match win streak and be primed for an upset of No. 7 Cornell at the Palestra Feb. 13.
Last season, Penn was in an eerily similar position. After edging out a tough No. 21 Hofstra team, the Quakers then trounced the Crimson and the Bears by a combined score of 69-18.
Following those dominating performances, the competition quickly stiffened, as three of the Quakers’ next four dual meets featured ranked opponents, including No. 3 Cornell, No. 8 Lehigh and No. 24 Penn State.
While the Quakers took down the Nittany Lions, they fell in their more important league matches to the Big Red and the Mountain Hawks.
If the Red and Blue want to play spoiler against Cornell and No. 8 Lehigh this time around, they will have to take care of Harvard and Brown, once again using those matches as a final tune-up.
One wrestler who can use his match as a tune-up in more ways than one is senior Cesar Grajales, In his return to the lineup last week following a knee injury, the No. 9 grappler returned to form with a 13-3 major decision.
It was the co-captain’s first match since advancing to the finals in the Southern Scuffle on Dec. 30th.
Grajales, who will need a few matches under his belt in order to be sharp for EIWA and NCAA championships, has an opportunity to gain more confidence with two winnable matches this week.
His probable Harvard opponent in the 149-pound weightclass, Spencer Friedman, has been pinned in each of his last three matches. Grajales hopes to make it four, despite the challenges his injury might pose.
“I want to stay as aggressive as possible, but I’m going to stay out of weird positions,” Grajales said.
The lack of depth in Harvard’s roster should lead to some easy wins for Grajales and others, but the Crimson (2-8-1, 0-0) are not without talent. The team’s lineup features the nation’s No. 1 wrestler J.P. O’Connor (157) — who remains a perfect 20-0 in matches — as well as No. 6 Louis Caputo (184).
A top-dollar matchup between O’Connor and senior No. 15 Matt Dragon will probably be anti-climactic, as Dragon will likely forfeit his match due to a shoulder injury that has kept him out of competition for the last two weeks.
Nevertheless, an intriguing match-up still remains, as sophomore Mark Rappo and Crimson freshman Steven Keith will go at it at 125-pounds. Keith defeated Rappo 6-2 earlier in the year in the Binghamton Open and is 13-5 on the season.
Rappo admits that Keith is “pretty good on top,” but feels he has a good sense of what he needs to do to avenge his loss.
“Just keep moving,” Rappo said. “I have to get out before he starts getting where he’s comfortable.”
Rappo and the rest of the Quakers will also be heavily favored against a Brown squad (2-7, 0-0) that has dropped its last six dual meets. Brown’s roster has no ranked wrestlers, compared to Penn’s five.Comments powered by Disqus
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