The winter season is officially underway.
Sunday, Penn wrestling kicked things off, opening up the 2016-17 campaign at the Southeast Open in Roanoke, Va.
Leading the way for the Red and Blue was junior May Bethea, wrestling at 157 pounds a year removed from his first NCAA Tournament appearance.
The 16th-ranked Bethea took third on the day, winning his first three matches before losing to No. 15 Russell Parsons of Army, 8-0, in the semifinals. Against Princeton’s Mike D’Angelo, the 157-pounder took third place with a 9-7 decision.
Joining Bethea on the podium was senior Frank Mattiace. Ranked 17th at 197 pounds, Mattiace recovered from a quarterfinal loss to No. 14 Kevin Beazley of Old Dominion to get a win in both the consolation quarterfinals and semifinals — taking sixth place with a semifinal win over teammate Joe Heyob in a 5-3 decision.
Senior Dan McDevitt was last to place for the Quakers, losing in the semifinals to Duke’s Connor Bass, 7-4.
Other than Bethea and Mattiace, Penn came in with one other nationally ranked grappler: three-time NCAA qualifier Caleb Richardson at 133 pounds. Richardson, ranked 17th in the country, had a rough weekend. After defeating North Carolina’s Alex Rinaldi, 10-6, he dropped his next two matches — a 3-2 decision to Army’s Austin Harry and a 5-3 decision to the Citadel’s Andy Szalwinski.
“First competition of the year, it’s hard to set expectations because you haven’t competed for so long. ... It was good in that it set the direction we need to go,” Penn coach Alex Tirapelle said.
No one else beyond those three managed to place in the Open Division for the Red and Blue, although several Quakers fought their way deep into the consolation rounds.
Junior Joe Velliquette fought his way to the consolation semifinals at 165 pounds but was on the losing side of a fall just 45 seconds in, and sophomore Robert Ng made it to the third round of consolation matches before ultimately getting knocked out of the tournament.
Not everyone for the Quakers competed in the top division, however. The Open was actually structured in two tiers — the Open Division along with a division for freshmen and sophomores.
The best performance out of the freshman/sophomore division came from Jalen Laughlin. The 197-pound freshman earned a 17-1 win on a technical fall against Army’s Trevor Parker to take third place.
Joining Laughlin and placing in the freshman/sophomore division was 149-pound freshman Jon Errico. After losing in the quarterfinals, Errico fought his way through the consolation bracket into the fifth-place match, where he ultimately lost to Army’s Lucas Weiland, 8-2.
“Being our first competition and being the first week in November, it’s too early to tell how great of an impact [the freshmen will] be able to have,” Tirapelle said, “but the potential is there for them to have an impact.”
Following this weekend, the Quakers get a two-week layoff. They won’t wrestle again until they play host for the Keystone Classic on Nov. 20 — a tournament that will represent an early test for the Red and Blue, thanks in part to the presence of the defending national champions in Penn State.