The Quakers have been tested early and often on the mats thus far – so what is the team’s grade heading into winter break?
“I’d say B-, C ,” coach Rob Eiter said.
For Penn wrestling, the young season has featured significant turnover, tough matchups and injuries thus far.
But while the Quakers (2-2) have not gotten off to an optimal start, that doesn’t mean Penn’s early matches can’t be valuable moving forward.
“We had a difficult first half of the season competition wise,” Eiter said of the young squad. “We’re learning as we’re going.
“I’d rather make mistakes now and correct them so at the end of the year we’re as clean as we can be.”
The Red and Blue were able to keep their record clean initially, with a 19-13 victory on the road at Maryland in their season opener.
However, the Quakers dropped two of their next three duals, with the lone win coming against Boston University. Although all three were winnable duals, Penn’s two losses did come against ranked squads No. 25 Bloomsburg and No. 21 Lehigh.
“We put our schedule together to test these young guys,” Eiter said.
The Red and Blue will have some time over the break to refocus and train, but they will be challenged as soon as the new year rolls around.
Jan. 1 marks the beginning of the Southern Scuffle. Located in Chattanooga, TN, the Scuffle has quickly become the nation’s largest in-season collegiate wrestling tournament, featuring 33 teams from across the country.
The tournament, which will host four of the nation’s top six teams – including Ivy League rival Cornell – will provide an opportunity for Penn wrestlers to make a statement on a big stage, and will also serve as a performance barometer.
“You’ll be able to see where you are and how you can improve [while at the Scuffle],” 165 pound sophomore Casey Kent said. ”You’ll be able to see if you have a legitimate shot.”
Several wrestlers for the Red and Blue have proved to be legitimate forces this season, including Kent, who has a 7-2 record in 2013-14.
Sophomore Ray Bethea (157), junior No. 9 Lorenzo Thomas (184) and freshman No. 19 Frank Mattiace (197) have all have put up double digit wins thus far for the Quakers.
“[Thomas] is off to a phenomenal start,” said Eiter. “He’s made a big jump [from 165 pounds to 184 pounds] and he’s made huge strides and getting better every match.
“He’s a student of the sport.”
Thomas and the rest of the Quakers will look to build upon their combined success at the Southern Scuffle and at their first dual of 2014, a matchup at No. 9 Nebraska on Jan. 11.
Penn last faced the Cornhuskers in 2009, a match the Quakers dropped 23-14. The Red and Blue will have their hands full once again with the Huskers, as Nebraska is 5-0 in duals, and their smallest margin of victory is nine points.
At this point, Penn isn’t so much concerned with margin of victory as it is with continued improvement and complete performances.
“We’re still waiting for that match when we put everything together at the same time,” Eiter said.
All the pieces are there for Penn wrestling going into break. At this point, it’s just a matter of putting them all together.
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