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His first season has already seen some hugely impressive moments, but freshman Gianni Ghione only has room to improve in his later years for Penn wrestling.

Credit: Emily Xu

So much for the mantra that rookies can't handle the spotlight. 

Penn wrestling has raced to a fast start this season thanks in no small part to freshman standout Gianni Ghione. 

After placing in the 133-pound weight class at the opening tournament at Binghamton for the Red and Blue (8-5, 4-4 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association), Ghione has truly carried that momentum throughout the subsequent dual meets. 

Ghione has played an instrumental role in the Quakers' early success this season as he currently holds a record of 14-6 in duals and stands second on the team with seven pins, only trailing senior Frank Mattiace with eight. 

However, he is more than up for the challenge, and looks to eventually surpass Mattiace's tally. 

"Frank constantly challenges me because he has more than pins than me and I can't have that," Ghione said. 

Ghione credits Penn head coach Roger Reina and assistant coach Chase Pami, as well as the upperclassmen, for his development throughout the season, especially in polishing the little mistakes. 

The freshman is currently No. 6 in the EIWA at the 133-pound weight class and sits in good position to qualify for the NCAA tournament. 

While his early success this season may be unprecedented, he was ranked as one of the top recruits in his class, and Reina has always been able to see his great promise. 

"He has, what we call, big move capability and a very competitive mindset, which have been helpful in his growth in becoming a very dangerous opponent," Reina said. 

In high school, Ghione wrestled in a highly competitive division in New Jersey, which truly tested his physical and mental toughness and provided him with valuable experience to build on at the collegiate level. 

"Translating his high school success to the next level, in Division I, is a big step, but coming out of such a hotbed has better prepared him and I think he's made the transition well," Reina said. 

"Before the season, I told myself I was just going to work hard, expect nothing, and see where that took me," Ghione added. 

His hard work has taken him quite far already, but there is still room for improvement, and Ghione will work as hard as ever to maintain the impressive start to his collegiate career. 

"I know I am definitely not a finished product, and I can improve in every area going forward," Ghione said. 

The future certainly looks bright, not only for Ghione's career, but also for the entirety of the program, if he continues to work and building off his strong freshman season. 

"The sky is the limit if he continues to learn high-level and high-percentage techniques," Reina said. 

Ghione will certainly remain in the spotlight as the season winds down and the conference and NCAA tournaments come into view.