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After seeing his team fall behind 12-0, Penn wrestling senior May Bethea helped spark a comeback that lifted the Quakers to a 19-18 victory over Army.

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

The best source of knowledge is experience.  

Experience certainly reigned supreme for Penn wrestling in its first conference dual against Army on Sunday, as Penn's senior wrestlers — Joe Oliva, Joe Velliquette, May Bethea, and Frank Mattiace — led the Quakers to a wild 19-18 victory after coming back from a 12-0 deficit.

The Red and Blue (5-3, 1-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) faced a quick turnaround, as Sunday's victory in West Point came just a day after a few wrestlers competed in the Shorty Hitchcock Memorial. Coach Roger Reina, however, rested many of the Quakers' top wrestlers on Saturday to ensure his team's freshness and give other wrestlers a chance. 

"The Millersville tournament was a good opportunity for some to have a competitive chance over the weekend," Reina said. "These opportunities are really important for the development of our wrestlers and our program, as a whole." 

As for Sunday's opposition, Army (1-4, 0-1) continued to struggle this season. The loss is especially difficult for the Black Knights, who won each of the first three matches to take an early 12-0 edge.

"We had to dig ourselves out of a pretty big hole which is a big challenge with a physically and mentally tough opponent," Reina said.  

However, Oliva, Velliquette, and Bethea rallied to win each of their respective matchups to erase the Black Knights' advantage. 

"A big catalyst was Joe Oliva, who put us back in the hunt by coming right out and pinning his opponent," Reina said. 

The victory was solidified by Mattiace, who defeated Army's Rocco Caywood in the 197-pound weight class, and junior Tyler Hall, who sealed the deal by defeating Bobby Heald at 285 pounds.

Hall has wrestled well to this point in the season and his counter-attack against Heald served to be the difference in the match and the overall meet. With Penn trailing 18-15 entering Hall's match, he scored enough points to give Penn the victory on criteria. 

"Out of a great many details that we work on in the practice environment, day in and day out, it really came down to one particular position on a counter attack that made all the difference for our team today," Reina said. "Tyler has made really good improvements throughout the course of the season and that was certainly a big moment in his career." 

Reina will not dwell too much on Sunday's victory, as he remains focused on the big picture and still sees room for improvement from his wrestlers. 

"We need to have a crystal-clear focus on the areas in which we are trying to improve upon, as the deciding factor in duals is usually which team pays greater attention to details," he said.

The start of conference duals means the conference tournament is well on the horizon, and the Red and Blue will look to build momentum in the coming weeks. 

"Each and every one of these matches carries a lot of significance going forward into the conference tournament," Reina said. 

The Quakers hope their experience continues to play a role in their upcoming meets, as they look to gain steam entering the conference tournament. Penn does not take the mat again until Jan. 27 against fellow conference foe Bucknell at the Palestra.