Penn wrestling had high hopes going in to this weekend, but back to back matches against Princeton and Drexel was going to be no easy task.
The Quakers dropped both matchups, losing first to Princeton, 28-15, then later to Drexel, 30-9. Saturday’s doubleheader was Penn’s final test before the upcoming Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships in Hempstead, N.Y.
However, coach Roger Reina isn’t making fatigue from the double header an excuse.
“We should shrug that off [the back to back] because we’re going in to the conference championship and NCAA championship where we will have multiple matches in a day ... We need to be able to power through that,” he said.
First, the Quakers (9-8, 6-6 EIWA) came up short at Jadwin Gymnasium, falling to Princeton by the score of 28-15. The Tigers (4-8, 4-3) showed another strong performance, as they now have won four of their last six matches after starting off slow this season. This marks the third year in the row the Quakers have lost to bitter rival Princeton.
A pivotal and highly touted match against the Tigers today was the 165-pound showdown between Princeton's Jonathan Schleifer and Penn's May Bethea. The match was neck and neck, with Schleifer accumulating points via takedowns to take it to overtime. And that's where Bethea would eventually emerge victorious with a 10-8 final score.
However, momentum waned quickly for Penn thereafter. Last year’s EIWA champion Frank Mattiace struggled against the Tigers, as Princeton's Patrick Brucki took down Mattiace in the 197-pound weight class. Mattiace struggled early on, falling to an 0-2 deficit due to a takedown only 20 seconds in to the match.
After the defeat at Princeton, the Quakers traveled to Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center for their match at 7 p.m., where they competed for the coveted Cheesesteak Trophy.
Fueled by emotions following a pre-meet ceremony honoring Drexel's 13 seniors, Drexel (12-4, 6-4) got out to a quick 3-0 lead and never looked back when Julian Flores defeated freshman Gianni Ghione for a 2-1 win in the 141-pound division. Penn fought tough in later weight classes, as seen with the 197 class when Mattiace out-dueled Stephen Loiseau 4-3. However, Drexel kept the majority of the momentum through the weight classes, accumulating enough points to amass a 30-9 win.
Penn had five qualifiers, with three qualifiers returning, for the NCAAs after strong showings at the EIWA Championships last year, and they have two crucial weeks to prepare now.
“Recovery is going to be a big factor, we need to refocus, and we need to be as fresh as we possibly can going in to the tournament,” Reina said.
Today’s matches were physically demanding, and the result not favorable, but the team has a lot to be proud about.
“[I] Couldn’t be more proud of my guys and their development this year and the chemistry they’ve formed,” Reina said.
With the two weeks of rest, the Quakers should be refueled and favored to make a deep run at the EIWAs, and produce a sizable number of qualifiers for the coveted NCAA tournament.