Not all sports save their biggest events for the end of the year.
This Sunday, Penn wrestling will welcome 12 teams and 20 ranked wrestlers in the annual Keystone Classic, including No. 1 Penn State.
In particular, the 149, 157, and 285-pound weight classes are loaded with talent, all with at least three ranked wrestlers in each class. However, the Quakers will not have a ranked wrestler in any of those weight classes.
Still, coach Roger Reina warned not to sleep on senior captain Joe Oliva at the 149-pound weight class.
“Joe is on a really good path in terms of his progress and improvement,” Reina said of his captain, who last season was in a tight battle for the starting spot in dual meets with sophomore Jon Errico. “I am really excited to see him compete this weekend in that 149-pound weight class.”
“I’m looking to turn some heads,” Oliva added.
While Oliva is looking to catch the wrestling world by surprise, fellow senior captain May Bethea, 2015 Keystone Classic champion, will not catch anyone off guard. However, this year, he will be competing in the 165-pound weight class instead of the 157-pound weight class, where he’s wrestled the past three years.
“I’ve grown just a little bit so 157 [pounds] became kind of difficult for me to maintain throughout the season so I think I’ll perform better at 165,” Bethea said. “165-pounders are little bigger, a little stronger, they’ll be a little more difficult to move around.”
Even with his No. 20, Bethea will be the third-ranked wrestler in his class behind Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph and Rider’s Chad Walsh, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 6 respectively.
In fact, Penn State boasts the No. 1 ranked wrestler in four weight classes, and eight ranked wrestlers overall.
Aside from the talented field, many grapplers will be looking to build off of strong performances at the Binghamton Open. One of those is senior Frank Mattiace, who wrestles in the 197-pound weight class.
After coming in first place last week, Mattiace knows it's important not to be complacent. Though he will be the favorite in most of his matches this season, Penn State’s No. 4 Matt McCutcheon stands in Mattiace’s way for a repeat first-place performance.
“Coach Reina and I have been on top of scouting my opponents and planning ahead,” Mattiace said. “In terms of someone like Matt McCutcheon, that is something we’ve been working on since the beginning of the season.”
Despite McCutcheon’s presence, Mattiace will not look past his weaker opponents this weekend.
“In terms of everyone else I am going to wrestle, I just take it one match at a time.”
Sunday will also mark coach Reina’s first Keystone classic in 12 years. After coaching Penn from 1986 to 2005, the Hall of Fame coach returned this season, replacing Alex Tirapelle after he resigned following last season.
“It’s exciting to be back,” Reina said. “It’s great to be around our community. I think it’s one of the featured tournaments in NCAA Division I wrestling, so to have that in our home gym early in the season will be a great test.”
Hopefully for the Quakers, they pass the test.
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