Sometimes, the best lessons come from close losses.
One weekend after Penn wrestling finished third out of 10 teams in the Keystone Classic at the Palestra, Penn traveled to Lawrenceville, N.J. to face Rider (1-0) on Thursday.
The Red and Blue's previous success did not carry over to the dual meet, as the Broncs came out victorious in a highly contested 20-18 victory. Fielding a young lineup with seven freshman starters, the Quakers (1-1) rallied from a 10-6 halftime deficit to lead 18-13 after eight matches but were unable to close it out in the end.
Despite the loss, freshman Anthony Artalona emphasized that the team had some positive takeaways from Thursday's match.
“I thought the [match] went really well. Obviously, we didn’t get the score we wanted and we weren’t perfect, but we had some big matches go our way and some nice revenge from last year,” Artalona said.
However, he did note some areas where the Red and Blue struggled.
“What set us short there, though, was just a few mental mistakes. There were two matches that were going our way for a while and then fell through, but I thought we wrestled pretty well in most of the matches we played.”
Freshman Carmen Ferrante was a bright spot for Penn, igniting the team at the end of the first half by avenging a 7-3 loss to Jonathan Tropea at the Keystone Classic with a 13-7 decision. The two had actually met six previous times, including high school bouts, and Ferrante finally picked up his first win in the series with a furious rally.
As a team, the Quakers were not discouraged by Thursday’s defeat, as they rolled to a 26-6 victory over Maryland (0-1) on Sunday afternoon. After an early 3-0 deficit, Penn jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first half and did not look back, winning eight of 10 matches throughout the day.
Artalona, ranked No. 20 in the country at 149 pounds and 10-1 this season, wrestled one of the marquee matchups of the day against Maryland’s No. 18 Alfred Bannister. Artalona led 1-0 after two periods, but Bannister took a 3-1 lead after an escape and a takedown early in the third period. Artalona then escaped to pull within one and forced overtime after drawing a second stall warning on Bannister with just 20 seconds remaining in the match. Artalona pulled away in sudden death overtime, scoring two points from a takedown to win 5-3.
“It felt great to get that win. I wrestled a smart match. Going into overtime, I felt pretty confident and thought I had some momentum; he was starting to fade a bit at the end of the third period,” Artalona said. “I knew if I kept the pressure like I did in the third period that he would either take a bad shot, which is what he did, or I’d be able to take an attack and score.”
Master's student Patrik Garren also helped give the Red and Blue some momentum during the day with an 8-3 decision over David-Brian Whisler at 197 pounds. Freshmen Ben Goldin, Ferrante, Doug Zapf, Grant Aronoff, Jake Hendricks, and sophomore Evan DeLuise also notched wins on the day.
Penn will take a long break to prepare for final exams, but it will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Midlands Championships in Chicago, an event that coach Roger Reina is anticipating.
“The Midlands Championships is a great tournament. Next to the NCAA [tournament], it’s my favorite collegiate tournament to go to as a team,” he said. “We’ll get to test ourselves against a lot of good, national-caliber competition, but we’ll also still have time to make adjustments before the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.”
Reina knows his team needs to work on some aspects of their game heading into the long break.
“We’ll do a lot of film review right now from this meet, the Rider meet, and the Keystone Classic. So it’s a learning, maintenance, and conditioning opportunity for us right now."