Practice makes perfect — even if Penn wrestling didn’t win all of its three duals on Saturday.
The Red and Blue faced three conference opponents in Bucknell, Binghamton, and Franklin & Marshall on Saturday, going 2-1 on the day. The three matches serve as a nice tune-up for the fast-approaching conference tournament.
"It's really a simulation of what it's like to be in the conference tournament or the NCAA tournament, where our guys will wrestle multiple matches in one day," coach Roger Reina said.
Saturday's duals ended a nearly two-week hiatus for the Quakers (7-4, 3-1 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association), who came from behind to defeat Army their last time on the mat earlier this month.
The Quakers entered Saturday's slate of matches knowing they had their work cut out for them as Dan Planta remains out of the lineup at the 125-pound weight class.
"We went into these matches already down 6-0 and that's a tall order to overcome, but the rest of the guys know what they need to do in order to make up for that," Reina said.
Senior wrestlers May Bethea, Frank Mattiace, and Joe Oliva were more than happy to answer the call.
With the seniors leading the way, the Quakers defeated Bucknell (2-11, 1-5) by a score of 24-14. They never trailed in the match.
The Red and Blue looked to push the momentum through to their next dual against Binghamton, but ultimately came up just short, losing 19-18.
The Quakers held a two-point advantage heading into the final bout at the 157-pound weight class, which pitted Penn senior Joe Velliquette against Binghamton's Tristan Rifanburg. Velliquette had the match in hand early, but a late surge by Rifanburg proved to be the difference in the Bearcats' victory.
The defeat is the Quakers' first loss against the Bearcats (8-4, 5-0) in program history, as Penn came into the match 6-0 all time in dual meets against Binghamton.
Similarly, the Red and Blue had won their previous eight meetings with Franklin & Marshall leading up to Saturday's dual. That trend did continue in the Quakers' favor, as they defeated the Diplomats by a score of 31-16.
Pins fueled Penn's victory, as three of the 10 matches were decided by falls. Velliquette was able to redeem himself from his defeat earlier in the day by pinning F&M's Emmett LiCastri and ensuring the victory for the Quakers.
Overall, Reina is proud of his wrestlers' effort, especially that of his seniors.
"May and Frank really pushed the pace of their matches and generated much more offensive attack," Reina said.
Those offensive adjustments were on true display as Bethea totaled 16 takedowns over his three wins, and Mattiace tallied his eighth pin of the season and a major decision to improve to 20-3 on the season.
"We generated much more offense today and, despite forfeiting a weight class, we won two out of three matches and were in position to win the third," Reina said.
With the conference tournament well in sight, the Quakers will learn from Saturday's set of duals and continue to prepare themselves in practice.
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