In the fall of 2019, 11 new wrestlers will step foot on Penn’s campus, ready to become a part of #TheMovement.
In recent years, Penn wrestling has attracted a number of top recruits from across the country. This is evident from the performances of this year’s freshman class. More than half of the team’s starters are freshmen, with notable success from Grant Aronoff, Anthony Artalona, and Carmen Ferrante.
The recruiting class of 2019 will feature three wrestlers that are currently ranked among the top-100 seniors in the country: No. 26 Michael Colaiocco, No. 65 Lucas Revano, and No. 84 Cole Urbas. Additionally, five incoming freshmen have been ranked in the top 20 in their respective weight classes, a sign that the future is bright.
Coach Roger Reina, as well as assistant coaches Bryan Pearsall and Pete Renda, all have a hand in recruiting.
The first step is, of course, identification. The coaches travel to tournaments and schools across the country to watch potential recruits compete. The coaches visit the homes of their recruits, talk to them extensively over the phone, and eventually invite them to campus for official visits.
They focus primarily on the surrounding area, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio, but they also recruit nationally. This is due, in large part, to #TheMovement, the program's mantra which has been integral in drawing recruits to Penn.
After identifying top prospects, the coaches are really interested in what each athlete will bring to Penn. Penn’s academic reputation means that the coaches are truly looking for student athletes.
“Being a good fit for Penn and Penn wrestling means that they’re truly committed to academic excellence,” Reina said.
The program also strives to fulfill its five core values: character first, humility, community matters, enjoyment, and aiming big. Reina emphasizes the importance of “character first.”
“We really want to try to identify athletes that have high character and that serve their communities,” Reina said.
Besides its Ivy League status, Penn also provides its athletes with a variety of invaluable opportunities. For example, Penn Athletics has partnered with Wharton to initiate a leadership development program open to members of Penn wrestling.
The program also seeks to support its athletes beyond college. Penn wrestling has a strong alumni network and partners current students with alumni to provide them with career direction.
And, in the end, the process is really one of mutual selection. Penn is an attractive option for many student athletes, so although coaches want to woo top recruits, they’re looking for something in return.
“We identify who are the best fit for Penn, and ultimately, that’s who we’re focusing our efforts on,” Reina said.
The wrestling recruitment process would not be possible without Reina’s effort, and Pearsall stressed the importance of the head coach.
“I think he is, if not the hardest working coach, then one of the hardest working coaches in Division I wrestling," Pearsall said. "The work and time he puts into [recruitment] is a big part of it.”
Reina returned to Penn 20 months ago after a 19-year stint as head coach from 1986 to 2005. He also attended Penn as an undergraduate, so his ties are strong.
“I think the ability to communicate the value in Penn is definitely a strength of his,” Pearsall said.
It’s clear that #TheMovement would not be possible without a strong group of recruits and a devoted recruitment staff, both of which Penn has. The class of 2023 will undoubtedly add to the program's energy when it arrives next semester.