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Wrestling vs Princeton Rollie Peterkin Credit: Pete Lodato

Kneel. Jump. Land in a squat.


More than 20 of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes struggle through the extra fitness. The Tuesday morning routine is unkind to the Quakers, who are coming off a loss to Cornell four days earlier on Feb. 11. The Quakers only have three weeks before the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships — and they have work to do.

The stifling room is filled with grunts of pain, but out in front, Rollie Peterkin wears a composed look of determination.

Peterkin leads Penn with a 20-2 record 133 pounds and a first-place finish at the Southern Scuffle in late December. He will put his work ethic and reputation to the test at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships at Bucknell on March 5 and 6.

Although he will likely enter the tournament seeded third, Peterkin is in uncharted territory.

As a sophomore and junior, he finished first and second, respectively, in this tournament but at 125 pounds. However, after taking last spring semester off to work at RBC Capital Markets, Peterkin sat down with assistant coach Matt Valenti to talk about a possible move up to 133 pounds.

“I talked to Valenti about his career, and what we decided was to lift hard over the summer and see where I am at,” Peterkin said.

Knees together. Squat. Jump.

Every wrestler is now grimacing in pain, and tolerance is the only reprieve. Still, Peterkin keeps his cool and maintains his 30-foot lead on the rest of the pack.

Eight pounds can’t be much more than most put on during the holiday season, but Peterkin has had to wait four years to do so.

He’s not the only Penn wrestler to make the jump from 125 pounds to 133 pounds, though. In fact, the other, Valenti, is a two-time NCAA champion.

“He was a three-time All-American, and he’s really inspired me because this is a more comfortable weight for me,” Peterkin said.

But to compare the two would be unfair to both. Valenti had already garnered All-American honors at 125 pounds and had a full year and a half to prepare for his jump, whereas Peterkin had a little less than four months. While Valenti wrestled with supreme technical prowess, Rollie counters with his “unorthodox” style.

“It’s [Peterkin’s] style of wrestling that’s the most dangerous, but it also hurts him the most,” head coach Rob Eiter said. “He’s not going to rely on getting his [favorable] positions.”

Peterkin’s move to 133 has even allowed Mark Rappo to claim the 125-pound slot. Rappo, who is having a career year and is No. 12 in the country according to his RPI, is also a favorite at the tournament this weekend in Lewisburg, PA.

“It worked out well this way for the team,” Eiter said.

Squat. Turn sideways. Quick steps.

By now, each second seems like an eternity for the wrestlers. Rollie doesn’t seem to mind, and with Valenti looking on, he finishes first — not the first time this year and perhaps not the last.

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