Faced with a matchup against wrestling powerhouse Cornell, junior Bryan Ortenzio and the rest of the Quakers have a simple message: Bring on the Big Red.
Although many may scoff at the idea that Penn (8-4, 2-0 Ivy) could take down No. 7 Cornell (5-4-1, 1-0), it remains to be seen what will happen once the two Ivies take the mat tomorrow at the Palestra.
“We really want to get this place loud, because Cornell is going to sort of walk in here with their little cocky swagger like they’re going to wipe the mat with us,” Ortenzio said.
Cornell’s dominance this year has been largely due to great depth: seven of its 10 starters are ranked, and two wrestlers — Mack Lewnes and Kyle Dake — rank first in the nation in the 174- and 141-pound weightclasses respectively.
On paper, it appears co-captains No. 9 Cesar Grajales (149) and No. 15 Matt Dragon (157) will be the only Quakers favored in their matches.
Nevertheless, the matches won’t be wrestled on paper. The meet will be fought on the mat, which looks to be in Penn’s favor this time.
Last year, the Red and Blue were faced with a rowdy Big Red crowd in a 24-9 loss in Ithaca, N.Y. This year, though, the Quakers will be looking to reciprocate.
“You come into our house, there’s no way we’re going to let anybody push us around,” Ortenzio said.
Ortenzio (133) will be one of a number of grapplers who will enter as the underdog but could swing the momentum of the dual with a victory.
His opponent, Mike Grey, has defeated Ortenzio five times over the last three regular seasons. In the Binghamton Open final match in Novemberr, Ortenzio lost 3-2. He then lost twice to Grey at the Southern Scuffle at the end of December, falling 8-4 and 8-2.
However, both the Penn junior and coach Rob Eiter agree that Ortenzio is closing the gap.
“Ortenzio’s always right there,” Eiter said. “We’ve never come out on top, but … I got a good feeling that this is going to be Bryan’s weekend.”
And the list of potential momentum-swinging matches goes down the line. At 165, No. 18 Gabe Burak will take on Big Red No. 16 Justin Kerber. Meanwhile, Gabe’s younger brother Micah, at 197, will take on No. 5 Cam Simaz. In his first collegiate event, Micah held his ground against Simaz and barely lost the 1-0 match.
Up for the biggest test of them all, however, will likely be co-captain Scott Giffin. The junior 174-pounder will face Lewnes, who is 28-0 this year.
“Going out there, I don’t have much to lose,” Giffin said. “My biggest thing is just getting to his legs and getting his feet off the mat, so he can’t roll around.”
Sophomore Mark Rappo will not have it easy either, as he takes on the defending NCAA champion Troy Nickerson (125). Rappo has shown great strides throughout the season and is coming off three straight major decisions.
On Sunday, the Quakers will welcome Ivy opponent Columbia to the Palestra. Penn will look to repeat the success it had in a 32-6 win over the Lions last year.Comments powered by Disqus
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