Judging from last year’s results, one would expect Penn wrestling junior Jeff Canfora to be out for revenge.
Finishing in fourth place in the 133-pound division at EIWA championships last year, and with all three wrestlers that placed above him returning, Canfora should be gunning for first place.
Time for the narrative to flip.
This year, Canfora will move up a weightclass to 141 pounds, taking aim not only at EIWAs, but also the starting spot traditionally occupied by fellow junior C.J. Cobb.
An NCAA championships qualifier at 141 pounds last year, Cobb, who sports an all-time 25-9 record at the weightclass, will be tough to unseat.
But Canfora, a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection in his own right from last year, is looking forward to some friendly competition with his former freshman year roommate.
“We work a lot in the room together. We’re friends,” Canfora said. “We’re close with each other and we work together to get better.”
Canfora has had to put in plenty of work to get to where he is today. Having never wrestled up at 141 pounds before, he had to adjust quickly to the new weightclass in time for Sunday’s East Stroudsburg Open, where he took fifth place.
“It’s a tough adjustment,” he said. “But the biggest jump was that my weakness, maybe, is kids being tall, and they’re a lot taller at 141. So I had to work on my strengths … my biggest strength is my physical strength, so I lifted hard in the preseason and I feel like I was ready to go by my first match.”
And Canfora proved plenty ready on Sunday, going 5-1 on the day. His only blemish? A 10-3 loss to Lehigh’s William Switzer.
Coincidentally enough, Lehigh is also the school of Randy Cruz, the 133-pounder who won the EIWA championships last year and is now moving up to 141 pounds as well.
Time will tell if Canfora will get another shot at the champ. For now, he and his coaches are taking everything one step at a time.
“[Jeff’s] actually had some success [at 141 pounds] so far,” Penn coach Rob Eiter said. “So it’s just kind of a wait-and-see process, a little bit. We’re pretty fortunate now. We’ve got some good depth on the team.”
Potentially filling Canfora’s role at 133 pounds could be freshman Ken Bade, who made a run to the quarterfinals on Sunday before losing to Binghamton’s Nick Tighe.
With so many hungry wrestlers waiting in the wings at both 133 and 141 pounds, Penn’s glut of talent is a coach’s dream.
“It’s kind of a ‘whoever-wants-it-the-most’ type problem to have at either weight,” Eiter said.
Regardless of where Canfora ends up on the roster, the Red and Blue return a wrestler who has time and again demonstrated his raw strength out on the mat at 141 pounds.
Posting a 14-8 overall record in 2013, Canfora never let go once he seized the starting job from Geoffrey Bostany, who went down with a season-ending injury in January.
Now, Canfora has the chance to take hold of the 141-pound start from the get-go and reach new heights.
“[My goal is] to just outperform what I did last year,” he said. “I’m going to have a full season under my belt this year … by the time the EIWAs comes around, hopefully I’m starting and I can make even more noise than last year.”
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