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Wrestling falls 30-9 against Lehigh 149 - Joey Napoli (Lehigh) def. Zack Ellis (Penn), 11-2; Lehigh leads 17-0 Credit: Pete Lodato

Freshly baked cookies, home-cooked meals and hanging out with friends and family: these are just a few of the many pleasures Penn students enjoy after the blizzard of finals and papers.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — except if you’re a swimmer or a wrestler.

With winter break placed in the middle of their competitive seasons, both wrestlers and swimmers must cut short their holiday festivities and, according to wrestling coach Rob Eiter and swimming coach Mike Schnur, undergo the most important and rigorous portion of training during the season.

Both teams will return home after their last finals and take a few days to unwind. But they must caution themselves to not overindulge in the guilty pleasures — and the feast — that the holiday season brings.

“I’m looking forward to sleeping all day on Christmas and not swimming one lap,” senior swimmer Mike Tompkins said. “My family always has Christmas Eve Mediterranean stew together … and I will stuff myself.”

The swimmers are expected to train with their home club or high school team in order to maintain their fitness, while the wrestlers try to avoid gaining too much weight from the deluge of desserts that awaits them.

“My mom’s a really good baker and always bakes extra when I come home,” senior Naomi Delphin said. “My sister’s birthday is two days before Christmas, so I’d have to say birthday cake is my favorite dessert.”

Swimmers return to campus the night of Dec. 27, train the next day as a team, and then depart for their annual trip to Boca Raton, Fla. The grueling training — which lasts from Dec. 29 to Jan. 7 — will take place at Florida Atlantic University, which will also be host to Penn’s dual meet against Brown on Jan. 5.

During the stay, the team will endure four hours of swimming and an hour of dry land training each day.

“Basically all they do is swim, eat and sleep down there,” coach Schnur said. “It’s an amazing bonding experience because you’re immersed into the team. It’s a shared sacrifice, and [the athletes] know that their three coaches are crazy and beating the crap out of them.”

“I look forward to the trip every year because I look forward to torturing them,” he added with a jolly chuckle.

While the swimmers will suffer through long workouts, they will at least get to work on their tans as they swim in FAU’s outdoor pool.

As the swimming team has its stocking stuffed with a trip to sunny Florida, the wrestlers await a fourteen-hour drive to Greensboro, NC., on Dec. 28 for the Southern Scuffle. According to sophomore Harrison Cook, the meet is one of the most competitive wrestling meets in the country and comparable to the NCAA championships.

“You have to stay disciplined or otherwise you’re going to spend twenty-eight hours in the car and have two short matches,” Cook said.

Winter break represents the last opportunity for the wrestlers to recover from their nagging injuries until the end of the season. They dreadfully await New Year’s Day, when the team begins two-a-days.

“The worst thing about getting back to practice is finding out what I weigh,” junior Zack Ellis said.

“That goes against everything I just said,” coach Eiter responded from the background.

The wrestling team uses the quiet around campus to focus on wrestling and to bond at the wrestling house. The team hangs out and watches movies and, according to Ellis, the house favorite is Step Brothers.

Despite the shortened holiday season for the athletes, they aren’t precluded from sharing in the holiday spirit. When asked what Christmas song he would work out to, Tompkins was ready.

“‘Frosty the Snowman,’ definitely,” he said.

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