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Facing heavy scrutiny for an injury-plagued Penn wrestling squad, junior May Bethea dominated at the Keystone Classic this weekend, taking second place in the 157-pound class while only falling to national No. 1 Jason Nolf of Penn State.

Credit: Nick Buchta

Penn wrestling put up a fight against defending national champion Penn State and some of the top wrestlers from around the country in the Palestra this weekend at the Keystone Classic.

Hosting strong programs such as No. 2 Penn State and other fierce opponents such as Edinboro, Appalachian State and Rider, this was a weekend to prepare them for what is ahead in the conference and national tournament later in the season.

A handful of Penn’s starters from last season did not compete, forcing other members of the squad to step up to some high quality competition. With dual meet season approaching, the team needs to tune into the small details that will ultimately help them perform at their best.

“It is a lot of the same things,” coach Alex Tirapelle said. “The same movements, the same situations, the little twists and turns. That’s why watching film is important.”

Junior May Bethea, ranked No. 19 in the country, made an appearance in the finals for the Quakers, but was defeated by the top wrestler Jason Nolf of Penn State in the 157-pound weight class. However, Tirapelle thinks there is a bright future ahead for Bethea this season.

“He is talented and works hard,” Tirapelle said. “But I don’t think we’ve seen his best performance yet.”

Bethea has won most of his matches this season, and ultimately received second place at the Keystone Classic. However, Tirapelle as well as Bethea himself feels like there is a lot more to come from him in the meets that lie ahead.

“I feel like I am progressing, and I haven’t reached my peak yet, but I am getting a little bit better every day,” Bethea said. “For finals today I need to wrestle my match and not get too sucked into things going on around me.”

Senior Frank Mattiace, ranked No. 16 in the country in the 197-pound weight class, also made an appearance in the finals this weekend. However, he was defeated by the No. 14 Matt McCutcheon of Penn State by a small margin.

Despite this, he earned a second-placed ranking along with Bethea. Coming into this weekend, he was really focused on himself and training hard, trying to take care of the things he could control prior to this weekend’s competitions. This ultimately proved to be a positive approach for him based on his performances.

Competing in the 165-pound weight class, Joe Velliquette was disappointed with some aspects of his performance but was successful in wrestle-backs and was able to improve on certain parts of his game.

“I think I gave good effort for a majority of my matches but not placing is rough,” Velliquette said retrospectively. “I need to work on linking what I do in practices to a match and I feel like that will help me be successful.”

With two wins, one in the second round to Zack Spira of Drexel, and another in the Consolation Third Round to Caleb Livingston of Penn State, Velliquette was able to answer back to some earlier defeats, proving his strength and determination to improve.

Collectively, there were many successful performances by the Red and Blue this weekend. With Bethea and Mattiace earning second place, junior Joe Heyob secured fourth place after going 4-2 in the tournament.

Additionally, the team was excited to be on its home turf at the Palestra.

“I think it gives us a competitive edge both physically with all the resources we use but also mentally that this is our space,” Velliquette said.

“It is a lot of work and a lot of people contribute, but when it comes together it is a great event and is a great experience for our guys,” Tirapelle added.

The Quakers will look ahead to achieving many of their individual and team goals as they progress into dual meets and later into tournament season. They will be back in action on Dec. 4 at Hofstra, and are already looking to improve their game from this past weekend’s performances.