Last weekend, No. 8 Nebraska knocked Penn wrestling to the floor in front of a massive crowd in Lincoln.
This weekend, the Quakers picked themselves up and walked away victorious in duals with Binghamton and Bucknell.
“We had to bounce back from a pretty tough loss the weekend before, and our team responded well,” Penn coach Rob Eiter said. “We were hoping . . . that this was kind of a weekend to make those adjustments from a tough couple weeks prior. The team responded very well, and overall, I’m very pleased with the results.”
Penn’s return to form started Friday night at the Palestra, where No. 17 sophomore Casey Kent and No. 12 junior Lorenzo Thomas helped lead the way to a 22-13 victory over Binghamton (3-8).
The dual remained close during the lighter bouts, with Penn (4-3) leading 10-6 after 157-pound sophomore Ray Bethea’s close 13-9 victory on the strength of five takedowns. Then the Red and Blue pulled away.
The 165-pound Kent forced a technical fall and picked up several backpoints to cruise to a 17-0 win that extended Penn’s lead from 10-6 to 15-6.
“Casey is about as rock solid as you’re going to get,” Eiter said. “He’s pretty methodical in his style of wrestling, and he just did an awesome job this weekend and the weekend before.”
At 184 pounds, Thomas notched two takedowns and added bonus points en route to a 14-4 decision that put Penn ahead, 22-6.
“[Thomas is] one of the anchors of the team, obviously nationally ranked,” Eiter said. “We’re looking for big points from him, and he delivered in both matches for us. Again, we totally look for him to score those points when we need them.”
Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon’s dual at Bucknell (5-7). The Bison took an early lead on the back of 125-pound sophomore Paul Petrov, who got a 14-4 decision. But Penn would rally back to a 24-13 victory. Although Sunday’s score was similar to Friday’s dual, Eiter believes his squad improved over the course of the weekend.
“Actually, I think we wrestled a little bit better today, and that’s what I had stressed, that we get a little bit better from Binghamton,” Eiter said. “There’s a couple of things we did since the Binghamton match so we could correct in a short amount of time. The majority of the team had made some corrections, and it showed in the matches today. They got a little bit better today.”
Freshman Ken Bade started Penn’s comeback by picking up six huge points at 133 pounds. Junior Jeff Canfora then increased the Quakers’ lead with a 12-4 win at 141 pounds — his sixth win in seven matches — that featured five takedowns.
As the dual moved on the heavier bouts, Kent, Thomas and Bethea helped Penn seal the win with 9-1, 16-2 and 9-5 wins, respectively. Thomas picked up his 16th win of the season, while Bethea notched his 14th victory of the season for the Red and Blue.
“[Bethea’s] a phenomenal athlete, and every day he’s learning a little bit more,” Eiter said. “Today he struggled a little bit — the kid wrestled him really good. Ray really had to work for his points, and hopefully he learns a little bit from this match.”
The Quakers will try to build on this weekend’s success as they return to action for an important dual with Army next Sunday at the Palestra.
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