Penn wrestling had mixed results in a brutal Saturday afternoon this past weekend, splitting a pair of critical back-to-back conference matchups against Ivy foes Harvard and Brown.
The Quakers would open up the day with a matinee performance against the Crimson (2-7, 2-5 EIWA), getting their second conference win of the season by a score of 27-17. After Harvard scored a fall in the first match of the day, junior May Bethea scored a fall himself to tie the score at six.
It was all Penn (4-6, 2-5) from there, as the Red and Blue would go on to win the next four matches to bring the score to 23-6, all but ensuring a Quaker victory. Highlights include a technical fall from senior Brooks Martino and a fall from fellow classmate Frank Mattiace, who is ranked No. 17 in the nation for the 197-lb. weight class. Jeremy Schwartz would get the final win for the Quakers on the day in the 125-lb. match to solidify the victory for Penn.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, the evening match against Brown would not end in such a favorable fashion.
The Bears (4-7, 2-5) would come out victorious in a thriller of a dual, one where the Quakers took a slim 16-15 lead into the final bout of the day. In a back-and-forth match, Brown’s Ian Butterbrodt would come away with a 5-2 decision over Penn sophomore Tyler Hall to make the final score 18-16.
The lineup for the Quakers would look a bit different in the night-time match, as they sent some of the squad to Lock Haven to prepare for an open tournament on Sunday, including the earlier-victorious Martino.
Despite the lineup changes, it would be the consistency of the Penn upperclassmen that would give the Quakers a shot at winning. Penn lost its first three matches by decision to put the team down 9-0 before junior Joe Oliva would score a 7-3 decision over Brown’s Travis Vasquez to end the drought. Bethea would score his second victory of the day, this time a major decision by a score of 17-8.
Brown would win the next match at the 165-lb. weight level before senior Casey Kent, ranked No. 13 in the country, joined Bethea in getting two wins on the day. After getting a decision win against Harvard, Kent would score a technical fall against Brown to bring the overall score to 12 all. After another decision in favor of Brown, Mattiace would also get his second victory of the day by scoring a major decision, the bonus points giving Penn its 16-15 lead.
All of Brown’s victories came by decision, including three victories by a one-point margin. Despite how close the match was, Penn coach Alex Tirapelle realizes that he needs more from the younger members of the team.
“If we’re going to win duals, if we’re going to win matches, then we’re going to need consistency at our top end,” he said after the Brown dual. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to see the upper half of the lineup perform pretty consistently. We’ve had to lean on them a lot this year because we do have some younger guys in the lower half. At some point we’ve got to make sure that we’re contributing throughout, that we’re not just riding those guys’ coattails.”
“I think our biggest thing was just continuing to wrestle,” Mattiace added. “I think we had a lot of opportunities in the match where we didn’t wrestle our best, and that led to a lot of close matches that could have gone the other way if people wrestled better on their game for a full match.”
Even though he, Bethea, and Kent were Penn’s most dominant wrestlers today, Mattiace maintains that there is no room for them to take their foot off the gas pedal.
“It’s really important for team morale for us to set the tone like that for other guys,” he said. “But it’s also really important from an individual standpoint. Recently I’ve had some wins, but a lot of them have been close wins, and that’s not where I want to be. So having a performance like that is really good for myself and also for team morale.”
The Quakers will face another busy weekend next weekend, taking a road trip to New York to face powerhouse Cornell on Friday before facing fellow conference rivals Binghamton and Columbia on Saturday.