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Penn wrestling junior May Bethea will face some of the top grapplers in his weight class at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Penn wrestling is approaching winter break ready to work hard and win some key matches.

As winter break approaches, the Quakers are preparing for two major tournaments – the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Lehman Open in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – before a huge dual meet against Princeton on January 8.

“Right now during exams, we are trying to get more workouts in and focus on the physical things during exams,” coach Alex Tirapelle said.

“We are allowing for a little bit of rest of this break, but in addition we want to make some strides in our training to improve and win a lot of matches in Tennessee,” junior Joe Oliva added.

The Southern Scuffle on January 1 and 2 is the first tournament the Quakers are training for.

“It is a really good gauge of the national tournament at the end of the year," Tirapelle said. "It’s the most competitive feel we have during the season where our starters will compete. It’ll tell us where they are at."

As always, the squad is looking to score points as a team, but each athlete also has his own individual goals in mind as the Quakers head into these winter break matches.

“We’re always trying to improve and make progress, but individually I’m focusing on effort and attitude which our coach is constantly preaching,” junior Joe Velliquette said. “This tournament will be tough and there [will] definitely be guys I need to scout, but I am looking to wrestle my own style and focus on myself.”

At this point in the season, the Red and Blue are looking to take advantage of their strengths while also building on some areas of weakness before heading into dual meet season at the start of second semester.

“We have great work ethic this season and we have a lot of young guys who are willing to push the older guys which will help us improve as the season goes on,” Oliva said. “We need to have more confidence in matches and get more comfortable in competition as we head into winter break.”

As the team prepares for the Southern Scuffle and the Lehman Open, they have to put these skills to the test to develop individually and as a group. Although these tournaments overall are not the most important ones in the season, the Quakers are still looking to keep up a high level of intensity to ensure success.

“I think we are prepared and we are going to continue training hard to get some good wins as we prepare for the dual season and the conference tournament,” Oliva said.

“The good thing about competition is that it identifies what you need to work on. We’ve made progress and I’ve been impressed with some guys so far this season,” Tirapelle added. 

The Quakers had a couple of setbacks during the season including some early injuries, so they are hoping for a healthier start in the new year.

“A lot of guys like Joe Oliva have been taking some big steps forward, and May Bethea is pretty much a mainstay and is always reliable," Tirapelle said. "Joe Heyob will be going 184 for the first time at the Scuffle so I’m expecting big things from him."

While most of the upperclassmen will be competing in the extremely competitive Southern Scuffle, the younger crew will be stepping up and making some bold appearances in the Lehman Open later that week.

The squad will continue to train hard heading into these two key tournaments as it hopes to gain momentum leading into their dual season. For now, it is about the right training, the right mindset, and the right attitude as they approach the winter break matchups.