The Penn wrestling team had a chance to make a real statement in its first dual meet of the season Sunday at No. 3 Oklahoma State.
Though the Quakers won three early matches, they were ultimately overmatched by a roster that included six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weightclass, as the Cowboys lassoed the Red and Blue, 35-10.
Neither senior captain Mark Rappo nor coach Rob Eiter claimed they were surprised by the loss, but both expressed a belief that the team could have performed better.
“We expected to compete,” Eiter said. “I don’t know if we could win.”
According to Rappo, the coach scheduled the match to challenge the team. Eiter also wanted Penn’s best wrestlers to compete against the grapplers whom they could meet again in the NCAA championships. He also wanted the rest of the team to discover where it stood at a national level.
“I think it really put things in perspective,” Eiter said.
Rappo won the opening match handily in the 125-pound weightclass, 9-2, over junior Tyler Dorrell. Last week, Rappo fell in a disappointing defeat at the Palestra in the final round of the Keystone Classic.
He was pleased with his personal victory this time out.
“I improved from last week,” Rappo said. “I felt a lot better today. I felt more confident. I just wrestled a way better match than anything I did last week.”
Junior Geoffrey Bostany lost next to No. 10 Jon Morrison at 133. But in the following two matches, sophomore C.J. Cobb and junior Andrew Lenzi beat unranked opponents to give Penn a 10-4 lead. Lenzi was aided, however, by the absence of Oklahoma State’s regular starter at 149 pounds.
From that point on, the Quakers could not squeeze out a single win. The next six Oklahoma State wrestlers — all but one ranked in the top 10 — beat Penn in a series of convincing wins.
“In the first couple matches, we wrestled very well,” Eiter said. “The last couple matches — not as good as we had hoped.”
Rappo, though, said he was impressed by freshman Casey Kent’s performance in his loss to No. 3 Tyler Caldwell at 165 pounds.
Next week, the Quakers will square off against another tough foe in No. 14 Lehigh. Rappo expects to win if just one Penn wrestler can pull off an upset.
“We need one guy to step up,” Rappo said. “That was the message I personally delivered to the team.”
Eiter believes the team should use this loss as motivation in the coming weeks.
“We can hold this feeling close to our chests and train a little harder,” he said. “And, again, that’s the main reason we scheduled this match.”
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