After a promising first session in which four of six Penn wrestlers advanced to the second round of the NCAA championship, the Quakers were brought back down to earth during the Round of 16.
Though only one Penn grappler remains out of the consolation wrestleback brackets, coach Rob Eiter isn’t looking back.
“The guys that are still in it are coming back through. A new tournament starts tomorrow,” he said.
Of the four who recorded first-round wins, 125-pound junior Mark Rappo was the first to fall to wrestlebacks. Earlier, Rappo upset ninth-seeded Jonathon Morrison of Oklahoma State. In his second match, he was facing another seeded Big 12 grappler in No. 8 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma, and the two looked evenly paired in the opening minutes.
Rappo was able to use superb scrambling skills to avoid giving up a takedown in the first period but was eventually brought to the mat. A second period takedown made the score 4-0, and Patterson held on for the win.
Then came senior Zack Kemmerer at 141 pounds, who drew fifth-seeded Montell Marion of Iowa after defeating unseeded Jon Kohler of Maryland. Marion jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period and entered the third with a 4-3 lead. It looked like Kemmerer would be able to mount a comeback until Marion caught him in a hip toss and brought him to his back for a five-point move. With riding time, Marion won the bout, 10-3.
Like his teammates before him, 165-pound Gabe Burak fell to a highly seeded opponent in the second round. No. 4 Josh Asper of Maryland put him on the defensive early and never let up. Though Burak was able to ride Asper relatively successfully in the second period, the Terrapin ended up with a methodical 6-2 victory, making the Quakers’ second-round record a humbling 0-3.
But then in stepped sixth-seeded 197-pounder Micah Burak, Penn’s higest-seeded grappler. He was evenly matched against No. 11 seed Jerome Ward of Iowa State, with neither wrestler giving up much on defense.
Neither could take his opponent down, and Burak’s riding time from the second period ended up being the deciding factor, giving him the 2-1 victory and a berth in the quarterfinals. If he wins tomorrow, Burak will guarantee himself all-American status.
After losing in the first round, senior 133-pounder and No. 10 seed Rollie Peterkin — in his third trip to the NCAA tournament — had to battle back and win a consolation bout against Eric Morrill of Edinboro to advance to tomorrow. He came out aggressively, controlled the match from start to finish and recorded a decisive 8-1 victory.
“I have to wrestle my best every single match,” Peterkin said. “You know, ‘ships are burning.’”
Last to fall was unseeded senior Scott Giffin at 174 pounds. Giffin fell to No. 8 Mike Letts of Maryland in the first round. In his first consolation match, Giffin lost to Dorian Henderson of Missouri, 9-1, and was eliminated from the tournament. Giffin took injury timeout during the match and appeared to be in severe shoulder pain, an injury that has plagued him all season.
Penn currently has five of its six grapplers still in contention for all-American status.
“I think we should leave here with a few all-Americans,” Peterkin said. “If we don’t, I’ll be disappointed.”
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