For the Penn wrestling team, ‘half-and-half’ has nothing to do with morning coffee orders.
Instead, it’s a representation of the way the Quakers performed in their 25-23 loss to Bloomsburg at the Palestra on Sunday.
Half of the Red and Blue (3-3) recorded impressive victories against solid opponents; the other half struggled in the spotlight against Bloomsburg (11-2).
And not surprisingly, the five Penn grapplers who lost their individual matches are underclassmen. The five winners are all at least sophomores and four of them are nationally ranked.
In the eyes of No. 4 133-pounder Rollie Peterkin — who came back from an early 2-0 deficit against Bloomsburg’s Nick Wilcox to earn a dominating 13-2 major decision victory — the Red and Blue’s rookie grapplers have the necessary skills to win against strong competition, but haven’t been able to utilize them.
“The freshmen this year, honestly, have a ton of talent,” Peterkin said. “The problem with them is mental, I think. They’re going out there and they’re not expecting to win.”
Coach Rob Eiter echoed the sentiment: “Sooner or later [the freshman] have to start believing in themselves.”
Junior Mark Rappo, ranked No. 19 at 125 pounds, certainly seemed to believe in himself during his 13-5 triumph over Sean Boylan to begin the dual match.
Despite seeing his lead dip below eight points — the amount required to record a major decision and earn his team four points instead of three — Rappo continued to press on and secure the decisive victory.
“Mark actually got taken down to have the major erased,” Eiter explained. “And then escaped and got the takedown with 20 seconds left to regain the major.”
Rappo, along with Peterkin, 141-pound senior Zack Kemmerer, Gabe Burak and Micah Burak recorded convincing victories. All except for Micah scored bonus points for the Quakers, and the sophomore Micah still won by a 7-0 margin.
All of these results provided a stark contrast to the performances of the squad’s five starting freshmen, two of whom were pinned by their Bloomsburg counterparts.
But, Eiter and Peterkin are quick to point out, the talent required to win at the Division I level is evident, if not cultivated.
Now the freshmen — including Canaan Bethea, whose statuesque physique wowed judges in the Mr. and Mrs. Penn competition — just need to match their talent with effort.
“I know they’re trying,” Eiter said. “They just need to try the full seven minutes.”
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