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Penn wrestling senior May Bethea was one of four Quakers to qualify for the NCAA Championships after competing at the EIWAs, but more teammates may be joining those four if they are given at-large bids.

Credit: Emily Xu

Sure, you can’t win them all. But that doesn’t mean you can't walk away on top. 

This weekend, Penn wrestling did exactly that, splitting a doubleheader with Columbia and Cornell on Saturday and placing second in the Warriors Winter Open on Sunday. 

Almost as soon as the Quakers (9-6, 5-5 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) had welcomed the No. 12 Big Red (12-2, 6-0) to the Palestra, they found themselves in a deep hole and struggled to get on the scoreboard. After falling in the each of the 125 through 157 weight classes successively, Penn had to wait until No. 17 senior May Bethea came through at 165 with an impressive 7-3 victory to secure the home team its first points. 

The injury bug may have played a part in the lopsided 32-9 affair, as Penn was forced to put out a makeshift lineup against the undefeated visitors, including some inexperienced grapplers and giving up two forfeitures, to Cornell's one. Bethea provided the Quakers' only win that wasn't via forfeit.

In the lull between matches, the Red and Blue found their spark, perhaps thanks to the senior day ceremonies. After concluding the recognition of a slew of soon-to-be grads of the wrestling program, including May Bethea, Freddie Dunau, Joe Heyob, Quinton Hiles, Marc Mastropietro, Frank Mattiace, and Joe Velliquette, Penn returned to action against the Lions (3-12, 2-7).

To open the scoring at 10-0, freshmen Daniel Planta and Gianni Ghione both secured wins in the first two spots, with a pin and 13-3 major decision, respectively. The tides then turned against the Quakers, as the next three bouts went the visitors’ way and evened things all up at 10 apiece. The two teams then exchanged points in the 165 and 174 spots, with Bethea again coming out on top via a 14-5 major decision courtesy of six takedowns after recently honored for his years of service. 

With things knotted up at 14, the burden then rested on fellow seniors Heyob and Mattiace to close out the day. The pair obliged and applied the finishing touches in style. Heyob narrowly edged out a 5-4 victory in a battle full of reversals and takedowns, while No. 9 Mattiace finessed five takedowns and earned himself the bonus points needed to put Penn out of reach at 21-14. Cornell would claw back four more points, but after the final bout, Penn emerged victorious at 21-18.

The following morning, some of the Quakers journeyed north to East Stroudsburg, PA for the Warrior Winter Open, the second annual tournament hosted by the school, East Stroudsburg University. Fatigue did not appear to be an issue, as the squad came out firing on all cylinders.

In the 157 division, the Quakers cleaned up the top two spots, with sophomore Jon Errico leading the way and freshman Evan Deluise following closely in second place, as both picked up two wins before meeting in the finals. Over in the 149 spot, sophomore Patrick Munn held his own ending the day at 3-2, including a win over fellow classmate and Quaker Carl Antrassian in the consolation bracket. Faring similarly was Hiles, who fought his way to an impressive fourth-place finish in the 174-pound weight class. 

After a long and grueling tournament, the Quakers secured 47 total points, with highlights including the aforementioned top-four finishes. That proved to be good enough for the silver medal, trailing only behind the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at 146.5. The Red and Blue should be very pleased with the performance noting that No. 23 Lock Haven and No. 24 North Carolina emerged in third and seventh, respectively, at the Open. 

With the all-important EIWA Championships approaching, Penn will look to carry this momentum and confidence through to the grand finale and finish the campaign on a high note.