Two steps forward, one step back.
One weekend after a signature win against the 17th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, Penn wrestling (2-4, 0-3 EIWA) would go on to face another ranked squad, this time visiting No. 7 Lehigh (8-1, 6-0 EIWA) in Bethlehem on Friday.
Unfortunately, the magic would not continue for the Quakers, as the Mountain Hawks were victorious in all but two bouts on the day. Lehigh’s Kyle Gentile forfeited his match against Penn’s Joe Heyob due to injury in the 184-pound weight class. The Red and Blue’s only other victory came at the hands of senior Frank Mattiace against Lehigh’s Ben Haas. Mattiace, who has an individual ranking of No. 15 in the nation in the 197-lb. weight class, won by a score of 5-2.
“I think the difference in the Lehigh match was that we had a few close matches that could have gone either way that we lost,” Mattiace said. “I think we still wrestled pretty well, we just made a few mistakes that we need to adjust.”
“In a few matches, I feel like they got off to faster starts,” Penn coach Alex Tirapelle added. “In matches that were competitive, I felt like at the end we finished stronger and had chances to win. There were three matches where we finished better, but because the Lehigh guy jumped on us and got a better start, he was able to just hang on for the win.”
The Quakers would not be discouraged by the loss, however, as they rolled to a 25-14 victory on Saturday against fellow Pennsylvania foe Lock Haven (5-6, 2-1 EWL). The Quakers jumped out to a quick 21-3 lead, before Lock Haven was able to make it interesting towards the end, drawing as close as 21-14. But sophomore AJ Vindici was able to seal the win with a major decision in the final match of the day, getting the Quakers their second win on the season.
The day was marked by a wealth of the bonus points for the Quakers in the matches they did win, as five of the six Red and Blue victories came as major decisions or technical falls. Mattiace and fellow seniors Brooks Martino and Casey Kent joined Vindici in victory, as did juniors May Bethea and Joe Heyob.
“Today was a good day. We put a lot of points on the board, which is always great to do at home and especially at this event,” said Martino, referring to the dual-competition that featured both the wrestling team and the gymnastics team competing simultaneously in the Palestra.
“It was important to get this win. To get momentum and get the morale up and energy up when we come in and train this next week, that’s very important,” added Tirapelle.
The Quakers will look to build on this momentum as they look for their first conference victories in their duals next weekend, visiting Bucknell in Lewisburg on Friday before returning home to the Palestra on Sunday to face American.