Penn wrestling is coming home.
Coming off a strong showing two weeks ago at the Michigan State Open, the Quakers will look to continue their momentum this Sunday at the 23rd Annual Keystone Classic at the Palestra.
Penn will welcome 10 schools, including defending national champion Penn State, from all around the country for one of the nation’s top tournaments.
Penn's current freshmen class, ranked No. 12 in the country according to Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine, lived up to its billing at Michigan State, with nine wrestlers winning at least one match. However, for the freshman and the team, this upcoming tournament will be the toughest test of the young season thus far.
At the Michigan State Open, freshman Anthony Artalona won the 149-pound weight class and will look to carry that momentum on Sunday against stiffer competition.
The Florida native turned heads and is primed to do so again, but he will have to compete with Duke’s redshirt senior Mitch Finesilver, who is currently the No. 10 ranked wrestler in the nation at 149 pounds.
“I don’t focus on too many wrestlers individually, I just wrestle. I focus on different tendencies of them but nothing in particular. He is a very good wrestler. I didn’t know him until recently because he is much older than I am, but he is obviously a solid opponent. I am really looking forward to the match,” Artalona said.
Besides Artalona, freshman Carmen Ferrante placed fifth in the 125-pound weight class and could do even better on Sunday in a wide open field.
Ferrante will be competing in a bracket with no top-20 ranked wrestlers, so he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself as a contender early in the season.
“I expect to wrestle really hard and take what I have been learning in practice and really try to implement it into matches. Leave it all out on the mat,” Ferrante said. “Rankings don’t really mean much to me. I just focus on one guy at a time, and I respect everyone equally. I expect every match to be tough and go out there and wrestle every guy the same.”
Freshman Greg Bensley, who is wrestling at 197 pounds, placed in sixth at Michigan State and will have an opportunity to shine at the Keystone Classic this weekend.
However, there is a possibility for Bensley to have a matchup against Penn State senior Bo Nickal, a three-time national champion who is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in his weight class. A Bensley win would send ripples through collegiate wrestling.
Junior Jon Errico will help lead many of the newcomers this weekend as he competes in the 157-pound weight class. Last year he came in 4th place at this event, and he will look to use some of that experience to help him.
“A couple of things I could have improved on last year were chain wrestling through certain positions," Errico said. "[I am] taking one match at a time, wrestling a full seven minutes and seeing where it takes me.”
In order for Errico to secure a victory on Sunday, he will most likely have to compete against Penn State senior Jason Nolf, who is currently ranked first in the country in the 157-pound weight class. Nolf was the champion at this event last year and is a two-time national champion.
Overall, Penn wrestling is taking the Keystone Classic as an opportunity to compete and have some fun while doing it.
“We have just been working really hard, and it's a tournament we look forward to. It is in our gym and we are just really excited," Ferrante said.
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