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Credit: Nicole Fridling

Penn wrestling got the hard-earned break they’d been fighting for in their first Ivy League dual meets of the season.

The Quakers hosted Brown at the Palestra on Saturday afternoon, followed by Harvard in the evening, with both meets ending in exciting and important victories for Penn. 

The Red and Blue (3-5, 2-3 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) defeated Brown (4-6, 2-5) in a close match, 18-16, and continued to dominate as they scored 29 more points than their opponents, crushing Harvard (1-7, 1-5) by a score of 35-6.

Each winning five of the 10 bouts during the match, both Penn and Brown had their work cut out for them on Saturday. Along with substantial contributions from freshman and No. 13 Anthony Artalona and senior Joe Oliva, the Quakers secured the margin of victory with three critical major decisions in the lower weight classes. 

“I think on paper coming into this meet against Brown, [Brown] was probably favored slightly. Not by a big margin, but I think they were favored," coach Roger Reina said.

Penn’s freshman Carmen Ferrante secured a victory over Trey Keeley of Brown at 125 pounds early on in the meet in a shutout, 8-0, and his momentum fueled the team through the rest of the meet.

Freshmen Doug Zapf and Grant Aronoff also posted notable results during the meet, adding to the Quakers' early lead. Zapf’s match ended in a score of 12-4, a major decision in his favor, and Aronoff’s win, 14-5, in which he also scored four team points, pulled Penn ahead to lead 12-10 overall. 

“The resilience that the team has shown [is critical], and coming into today, we really looked at this as a fresh start to the second half of the season,” Reina said.

Later in the day, Penn secured wins in all but one of the 10 weight categories in an impressive showing against Harvard.

Against Harvard’s Nolan Hellickson, against whom Ferrante wrestled previously in the Keystone Classic, he again shut out his opponent in a match that ended in a score of 14-0 and over four minutes of riding time. 

“We’ve been fighting all year, and we haven’t really gotten the results, but today we broke through,” Ferrante said. “Harvard and Brown are both tough teams … I was really excited to see us break through and get those points we’ve been working for." 

Artalona’s aggression on the mat also payed off, as he secured a victory by technical fall with a score of 20-3. He asserted his dominance early on and held his opponent to three points while he secured over 10 points in a row to win the match.

“We were looking at the margin of victory between Princeton and Harvard, which happened earlier today, and we were trying to beat them by more, just as a little statement to Princeton, and I think we pulled that off today,” Reina said.

Another particularly impressive match was that in which freshman Willy Kaiser defeated his opponent from Harvard, Aaron Kruk. Although he didn’t compete earlier against Brown, Kaiser got the opportunity to wrestle against the Crimson and did not disappoint.

“I had been recruited by both of the teams, so it was nice to be able to go out and wrestle against one of the teams I almost committed to,” he said.

Kruk led during the first period of the match, but in the second period, Kaiser pulled ahead after a surprising shot, scoring four points in a row and bringing the score to 6-5. The third period saw Kaiser score two more points and hold on for the 8-6 win.

“For me, it’s mostly about mental preparation and expecting to be called on if the team needs me," Kaiser added. "Thankfully, the shoe fit today, and it was able to work out in my favor."

Picking up their first dual meet wins in two months, the Red and Blue will look to keep the momentum going when they travel to New York to continue Ivy competition, facing Cornell and Columbia on Friday and Saturday, respectively.